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Full text of "Twelve years a slave. Narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana"

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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight bimdred and 

fifty-three, by 

Derby and Millbb, 

lu the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Northern District of New- York. 

Entkekd in London at Statiokbrs' Halu 





Key to VtuM Tom's Cabin, p. 174. 







l^es to Sancle STom's ©abtn, 


Such dupes are men. to custom, and so prona 
To reverence what is ancient, and can pKart 
A course of long observance for its use, 
That even servitude, tlie worst of ills. 
Because delivered down from sire to son. 
Is kept and guarded as a sacred thing. 
But is it fit, or can it bear the shock 
Of rational discussion, that a man 
Compounded and made up, like other nien. 
Of elements tumultuous, in whom iu^i 
And folly in as ample measure meet, 
As in the bosom of the slave he rules. 
Should be a despot absolute, and bujist 
Himself the only freeman of bis land '; ''■ 



Epitor*b Prkfack, 16 

Introductory — Ancestry — The Northup Family — Birth and 
Parentage — Mintus Northup — Marriage with Anne Hamp- 
ton — Good Resolutions — Champlain Canal — Rafting Ex- 
cursion to Canada — Farming — The Violin — Cooking — 
Removal to Saratoga — Parker and Perry — Slaves and Sla- 
very — The Children — The Beginning of Sorrow, 17 


The two Strangers — The Circus Company — Departure from 
Saratoga — Yentriloquism and Legerdemain — Journey to 
New-York — Free Papers — Brown and Hamilton — The 
haste to reach the Circus — Arrival in "Washington — Fune- 
ral of Harrison — The Sudden Sickness — The Torment of 
Thirst — The Receding Light — Insensibility — Chains and 
D arkness, \ 28 


Painful Meditations — James H. Burch — Williams' Slave Pen 
in Washington — The Lackey, Radburn — Assert my Free- 
dom — ^The Anger of the Trader — ^The Paddle and Cat-o'-nine- 
tails — ^The Whipping — New Acquaintances — Ray, Williams, 
and Randall — Arrival of Little Emily and her Mother in the 
Pen — Maternal Sorio ws — The Story of Eliza 40 




Eliza's Sorrows — Preparation to Embark — Driven Through 
the Streets of Washington — Hail, Columbia — The Tomb of 
"Washington — Clem Ray — The Breakfast on the Steamer — 
The happy Birds — Aquia Creek — Fredericksburgh — Arri- 
val in Richmond — Goodin and his Slave Pen — Robert, of 
Cincinnati — David and his Wife — Mary and Lethe — Clem's 
Return — His subsequent Escape to Canada — The Brig Or- 
leans — James H. Burch, 64 


Arrival at N'orfolk — ^Frederick and Maria — Arthur, the Free- 
man — Appointed Steward — Jim, Cuffee, and Jenny — The 
Storm — Bahama Banks — The Calm — The Conspiracy — ^The 
Long Boat — The Small-Pox — Death of Robert — Manning, 
the Sailor — The Meeting in the Forecastle — The Letter — • 
Arrival at New-Orleans — Arthur's Rescue — Theophilus Free- 
man, the Consignee — Piatt — First Night in the New-Orleans 
Slave Pen, 65 


Freeman*8 Industry — Cleanliness and Clothes — ^Exercising in 
the Show Room — The Dance — Bob, the Fiddler — Arrival 
of Customers — Slaves Examined — The Old Gentleman of 
New-Orleans — Sale of David, Caroline, and Lethe — Parting 
of Randall and Eliza — Small-Pox — The Hospital — Recov- 
ery and Return to Freeman's Slave Pen — The Purchaser of 
Eliza, Harry, and Piatt — Eliza's Agony on Parting from 
Little Emily, 78 


The Steamboat Rodolph — Departure from New-Orleans — Wil 
liam Ford — Arrival at Alexandria, on Red River — Resolu- 
tions—The Great Pine Woods— Wild Cattle — Martin's Sum- 
mer Residence — The Texas Road — Arrival at Master Ford's 
— ^Rose — Mistress Ford — Sally and her Children — John, the 
Cook — Walter, Sam, and Antony — The Mills on Indian 
Creek — Sabbath Days — Sam's Conversion — The Profit of 



Kindness — Rafting — Adam Taydem, tlie Little "White Man — 
Cascalla and his Tribe — The Indian Ball — John M. Tibeats 
—The Storm approaching, 89 


Ford's Embarrassments — The Sale to Tibeats — The Chattel 
Mortgage — Mistress Ford's Plantation on Bayou Boeuf — 
Description of the Latter — Ford's Brother-in-law, Peter Tan- 
ner — Meeting with Eliza — She still Mourns for her Chil- 
dren — Ford's Overseer, Chapin — Tibeats' Abuse — The Keg 
of Nails — The First Fight with Tibeats — His Discomfiture 
and Castigation — The attempt to Hang me — Chapin's In- 
terference and Speech — Unhappy Reflections — Abrupt De- , 
parture of Tibeats, Cook, and Ramsey — Lawson and the 
Brown Mule — Message to the Pine Woods, 105 


The Hot Sun — Yet bound — The Cords sink into my Flesh — 
Chapin's Uneasiness — Speculation — Rachel, and her Cup of 
Water — Suffering increases — The Happiness of Slavery — 
Arrival of Ford — He cuts the Cords which bind me, and 
takes the Rope from my Neck — Misery — The gathering of 
the Slaves in Eliza's Cabin — Their Kindness — Rachel Re- 
peats the Occurrences of the Day — Lawson entertains his 
Companions with an Account of his Ride — Chapin's appre- 
hensions of Tibeats — Hired to Peter Tanner — Peter ex- 
pounds the Scriptures — Description of the Stocks, 118 


Return to Tibeats — Impossibility of pleasing him — He at- 
tacks me with a Hatchet — The Struggle over the Broad Axe 
— The Temptation to Murder him — Escape across the Plan- 
tation — Observations from the Fence — Tibeats approaches, 
followed by the Hounds— They take my Track— Their load 
Yells — They almost overtake me — I reach the Water — 
The Hounds confused — ^Moccasin Snakes — Alligators — Night 
in the "Great Pacoudrie Swamp" -The Sounds of Li fa 



North-West Course — Emerge into the Pine "Woods — Slave 
aiid his Young Master — Arrival at Ford's — Food and Rest, l;il 


The Mistress' Garden — The Crimson and Golden Fruit — Or- 
ange and Pomegranate Trees — Return to Bayou Boeuf — 
Master Ford's Remarks on the way — The Meeting with Tib- 
eats — His Account of the Chase — Ford censures his Brutal- 
ity — Arrival at the Plantation — Astonishment of the Slaves 
OD seeing me — The anticipated Flogging — Kentucky John 
— ^Mr. Eldret, the Planter — Eldret's Sam — Trip to the "Big 
Cane Brake"— The Tradition of "Sutton's Field"— Forest 
Trees — Gnats and Mosquitoes — The Arrival of Black "Wo- 
men in the Big Cane — Lumber "Women — Sudden Appear- 
ance of Tibeats — His Provoking Treatment — Visit to Ba- 
you BcBuf — The Slave Pass — Southern Hospitality — The 
Last of Eliza — Sale to Edwin Epps, 146 


Personal Appearance of Epps — Epps, Drunk and Sober — A 
Glimpse of his History — Cotton Growing — The Mode of 
Ploughing and Preparing Ground — Of Planting, of Hoe- 
ing, of Picking, of Treating Raw Hands —The difference in 
Cotton Pickers — Patsey a remarkable one — Tasked accord- 
ing to Ability — Beauty of a Cotton Field — The Slave's La- 
bors — Fear of Approaching the Gin-House — Weighing — 
"Chores"— Cabin Life— The Corn Mill — The Uses of the 
Gourd — Fear of Oversleeping — Fear continually — Mode 
of Cultivating Corn — Sweet Potatoes — Fertility of the Soil 
— Fattening Hogs — Preserving Bacon — Raising Cattle — 
Shooting-Matches — Garden Products — Flowers and "Verdure, 1 62 


The Curious Axe-Helve — Symptoms of approaching Dlness — 
Continue to decline — The Whip ineffectual — Confined 



to the Cabin — Visit by Dr. "Wines — Partial Recovery — ^Fail- 
ure at Cotton Picking — What may be heard on Epps' Plan- 
tation — Lashes Graduated — Epps in a Whipping Mood — 
Epps in a Dancing Mood — Description of the Dance — Loss 
of Rest no Excuse — Epps' Characteristics — Jim Burns — Re- 
moval from HuflF Power to Bayou Boeuf — Description of 
Uncle Abram; of Wiley; of Aunt Phebe; of Bob, Henry, 
and Edward ; of Patsey ; with a Genealogical Account of 
each — Something of their Past History, and Peculiar Char- 
acteristics — Jealousy and Lust — Patsey, the Victim, 176 


Destruction of the Cotton Crop in 1845 — Demand for Laborers 
in St. Mary's Parish — Sent thither in a Drove — The Order 
of the March — The Grand Coteau — Hired to Judge Turner on 
Bayou Salle — Appointed Driver in his Sugar House — Sun- 
day Services — Slave Furniture ; how obtained — The Party 
at Yarney's, in Centreville — Good Fortune — The Captain 
of the Steamer — His Refusal to Secrete me — Return to Ba- 
you Boeuf — Sight of Tibeats — Patsey's Sorrows^ — Tumult 
and Contention — Hunting the Coon and Opossum — The 
Cunning of the latter — The Lean Condition of the Slave — 
Description of the Fish Trap — The Murder of the Man from 
Natchez — Epps Chalenged by Marshall — The Influence of 
Slavery — The Love of Freedom, 191 


Xiabors on Sugar Plantations — The Mode of Planting Cane — 
of Hoeing Cane — Cane Ricks — Cutting Cane — Description 
of the Cane Knife — Winrowing — Preparing for Succeeding 
Crops — Description of Hawkins' Sugar Mill on Bayou Boeuf 
— The Christmas Holidays — The Carnival Season of the 
Children of Bondage — The Christmas Supper — Red, the Fa- 
vorite Color — The Violin, and the Consolation it aflforded — 
The Christmas Dance — Lively, the Coquette — Sam Roberts, 
and his Rivals — Slave Songs — Southern Life as it is — Three 
Days in the Year — The System of Marriage — Uncle Abram's 
Contempt of Matrimony, 208 




Overseers — How they are Armed and Accompanied — The 
Homicide — His Execution at Marksville — Slave Drivers — 
Appointed Driver on removing to Bayou Boeuf — Practice 
makes perfect — Epps's Attempt to Cut Piatt's Throat — The 
Escape from him — Protected by the Mistress — Forbids Read- 
ing and Writing — Obtain a Sheet of Paper after Nine Years* 
Effort — The Letter — Armsby, the Mean White — Partially 
confide in him — His Treachery — Epps' Suspicions — How 
they were quieted — Burning the Letter — Armsby leaves 
the Bayou — Disappointment and Despair, 228 


Wiley disregards the counsels of Aunt Phebe and Cncle Abram, 
and is caught by the Patrollers — The Organization and Du- 
ties of the latter — Wiley Runs Away — Speculations in re- 
gard to him — His Unexpected Return — His Capture on the 
Red River, and Confinement in Alexandria Jail — Discovered 
by Joseph B. Roberts — Subduing Dogs in anticipation of 
Escape — The Fugitives in the Great Pine Woods — Captur- 
ed by Adam Taydem and the Indians — Augustus killed by 
Dogs — Nelly, Eldret's Slave Woman— The Story of Celeste 

— The Concerted Movement — Lew Cheney, the Traitor — 
The Idea of Insurrection, 2&6 


O'Niel, the Tanner — Conversation with Aunt Phebe overheard 
— Epps in the Tanning Business — Stabbing of Uncle Abrara 

— The Ugly Wound — Epps is Jealous — Patsey is Missing— 
Her Return from Shaw's — Harriet, Shaw's Black Wife — 
Epps Enraged — Patsey denies his Charges — She is Tied 
Down Naked to Four Stakes — The Inhuman Flogging — 
Flaying of Patsey — The Beauty of the Day — The Bucket of 
Salt Water — The Dress stiff with Blood— ^Patsey grows 
Melancholy— Her Idea of God and Eternity— Of Heaven and 
Freedom— The Effect of Slave- Whipping — Epps' Oldest Son 

."Tlie Child is Father to the Man," 250 



•" ^ PAGR 

Avery, on Bayoa Rouge — Peculiarity of Dwellings — Eppa 
builds a New House — Bass, the Carpenter — His Noble Qual- 
ities — His Personal Appearance and Eccentricities — Bass 
and Epps discuss the Question of Slavery — Epps' Opinion 
of Bass — I make myself known to him — Our Conversation 
"—His Surprise — The Midnight Meeting on the Bayou Bank 
— Bass' Assurances — Declares War against Slavery — Why 
I did not Disclose my History — Bass writes Letters — Copy 
of his Letter to Messrs. Parker and Perry — The Fever of 
Suspense — Disappointments — Bass endeavors to cheer me 
—My Faith in him, 2" 3 


Bass faithful to his word — His Arrival on Christmas Eve — 
The Difficulty of Obtaining an Interview — The Meeting in 
the Cabin — Non-arrival of the Letter — Bass announces his 
Intention to proceed North — Christmas — Coversation be- 
tween Epps and Bass — Young Mistress McCoy, the Beauty 
of Bayou BoBuf — The "Ne plus ultra" of Dinners — Music 

- and Dancing — Presence of the Mistress — Her Exceeding 
Beauty — The Last Slave Dance — William Pierce — Over 
sleep myself — The Last Whipping — Despondency — Cold 
Morning — Epps' Threats — The Passing Carriage — Stran- 
gers approaching through the Cotton-Field — Last Hour on 
Bayou Boeuf, 279 


The Letter reaches Saratoga — Is forwarded to Anne — Is laid 
before Henry B. Northup — The Statute of May 14, 1840 — 
Its Provisions — Anne's Memorial to the Governor — The af- 
fidavits Accompanying it — Senator Soule's Letter — Depar- 
ture of the Agent appointed by the Governor — Arrival at 
Marksville — The Hon. John P. Waddill — The Conversation 
on New-York Politics — It suggests a Fortunate Idea — The 
Meeting with Bass — The Secret out — Legal Proceedings in- 
stituted— -Departure of Northup and the Sheriff from Marks- 



ville for Bayou Boeuf — Arrangements on the "Way — Rcjic-ii 
Epps' Plantation — Discover his Slaves in the Cotton-FieM — 
The Meeting — The Farewell, 2sy 


A.rrival in New-Orleans — Glimpse of Freeman — Genois, the 
Recorder — His Description of Solomon — Reach Charleston 
Interrupted by Custom House Officers — Pass through Rich- 
mond — Arrival in Washington — Burch Arrested — Shekels 
and Thorn — Their Testimony — Burch Acquitted — Arrest 
of Solomon — Burch withdraws the Complaint — The High- 
er Tribunal — Departure from "Washington — Arrival at San- 
dy Hill — Old Friends and Familiar Scenes — Proceed to 
Glens Falls — Meeting with Anne, Margaret, and Elizabeth — 
Solomon Northup Staunton — Incidents — Conclusion, 310 

ArPENiux, 323 


Portrait of Solomon in his Plantation Suit, 1 

Scene in the Slave Pen at "Washington, 45 

Separation of Eliza and her last Child, 86 

Chapin rescues Solomon from Hanging, 116 

The Staking out and Flogging of the girl Patsey, 256 

Scene in the Cotton Field, and Solomon's Delivery, 303 

Arrival Home, and first meeting with his "Wife and Chh.dren^ 220 


When the editx)i commenced the preparation of the fol 
lowing narrative, he did not suppose it would reach the size of 
this volume. In order, however, to present aU the facts which 
have been communicated to him, it has seemed necessary to 
extend it to its present length. 

Many of the statements contained in the following pages are 
corroborated by abundant evidence — others rest entirely upon 
Solomon's assertion. That he has adhered strictly to the truth, 
the editor, at least, who has had an opportunity of detecting 
any contradiction or discrepancy in his statements, is well sat> 
isfied. He has invariably repeated the same story without 
deviating in the slightest particular, and has also carefully pe- 
rused the manuscript, dictating an alteration wherever the most 
trivial inaccuracy has appeared. 

It was Solomon's fortune, during his captivity, to be owned by 
several masters. The treatment he received while at the " Pine 
Woods " shows that among slaveholders there are men of hu- 
manity as well as of cruelty. Some of them are spoken of with 
emotions of gratitude — others in a spirit of bitterness. It is 


believed that the followuig account of his experience on Bayou 
Boeuf presents a correct picture of Slavery, in all its lights and 
shadows, as it now exists in that locality. Unbiased, as he 
conceives, by any prepossessions or prejudices, the only object 
of the editor has been to give a faithful history of Solomon 
Northup's life, as he received it from his lips. 

In the accomplishment of that object, he trusts he has suc- 
ceeded, notwithstanding the numerous faults of style and (y 
expresssion it may be found to contain. 


Whitehall, N. Y., May, 1853. 








Having, been born a freeman, and for more than 
tbirty years enjoyed tbe blessings of liberty in a free 
State — and baving at tbe end of tbat time been kid- 
napped and sold into Slavery, wbere I remained, until 
b^ppily rescued in tbe montb of January, 1853, after 
a bondage of twelve years— it bas been suggested 
tbat an account of my life and fortunes would not be 
uninteresting to tbe public. 

Since my return to liberty, I bave not failed to per- 
ceive tbe increasing interest tbrougbout tbe Nortbern 
States, in regard to tbe subject of Slavery. Works of 
fiction, professing to portray its features in tbeir more 
pleasing as well as more repugnant aspects, bave been 


circulated to an extent unprecedented, and, as I un- 
derstand, have created a fruitful topic of comment and 


I can speak of Slavery only so far as it came under 

my own observation — only so far as I have known 
and experienced it in my own person. My object is, 
to give a candid and truthful statement of facts : to 
repeat the story of my life, without exaggeration, leav- 
ing it for others to determine, whether even the pages 
of fiction present a picture of more cruel wrong or a 
eeverer bondage. 

As far back as I have been able to ascertain, my 
ancestors on the paternal side were slaves in Ehode 
Island. They belonged to a family by the name of 
Northup, one of whom, removing to the State of New- 
York, settled at Hoosic, in Kensselaer county. He 
brought with him Mintus ISTorthup, my father. On 
the death of this gentleman, which must have occur- 
red some fifty years ago, my father became free, hav 
ing been emancipated by a direction in his will. 

Henry B. North up, Esq., of Sandy Hill, a distin- 
guished counselor at law, and the man to whom, un 
der Providence, I am indebted for my present liberty, 
and my return to the society of my wife and children, 
is a relative of the family in which my forefathers 
Tvere thus held to service, and from which they took 
the name I bear. To this fact may be attributed the 
persevering interest he has taken in my behalf. 

Sometime after my father's liberation, he removed 
to the town of Minerva, Essex county, N. Y., where! 


was born, in the month of July, 1808. How long he 
remained in the latter place I have not the means of 
definitely ascertaining. From thence he removed to 
Granville, "Washington county, near a place known as 
Slyborough, where, for some years, he labored on the 
farm of Clark Northup, also a relative of his old mas- 
ter ; from thence he removed to the Alden farm, at 
Moss Street, a short distance north of the village of 
Sandy Hill ; and from thence to the farm now owned 
by Russel Pratt, situated on the road leading from 
Fort Edward to Argyle, where he continued to reside 
until his death, which took place on the 22d day of 
!N"ovember, 1829. He left a widow and two children 
— myself, and Joseph, an elder brother. The latte? 
is still living in the county of Oswego, near the city 
of that name ; my mother died during the period of 
my captivity. 

Though bom a slave, and laboring under the disad- 
vantages to which my unfortunate race is subjected, 
my father was a man respected for his industry and 
integrity, as many now living, who well remember 
him, are ready to testify. His whole life was passed in 
the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, never seeking em- 
ployment in those more menial positions, which seem 
to be especially allotted to the children of Africa. Be- 
sides giving us an education surpassing that ordinari- 
ly bestowed upon children in our condition, he ac- 
quired, by his diligence and economy, a sufficient 
property qualification to entitle him to the right of 
suffrage. He was accustomed to speak to us of his 


early life ; and although at all times cherishing the 
warmest emotions of kindness, and even of affection 
towards the family, in whose house he had been a 
bondsman, he nevertheless comprehended the system 
of Slavery, and dwelt with sorrow on the degradation 
of his race. He endeavored to imbue our minds with 
sentiments of morality, and to teach us to place our 
trust and confidence in Him who regards the humblest 
as well as the highest of his creatures. How often 
since that time has the recollection of his paternal 
counsels occurred to me, while lying in a slave hut in 
the distant and sickly regions of Louisiana, smarting 
with the undeserved wounds which an inhuman mas- 
ter had inflicted, and longing only for the grave which 
had covered him, to shield me also from the lash of 
the oppressor. In the church-yard at Sandy Hill, an 
humble stone marks the spot where he reposes, after 
having worthily performed the duties appertaining to 
the lowly sphere wherein God had appointed him to 

Up to this period I had been principally engaged 
with my father in the labors of the farm. The leis- 
ure hours allowed me were generally either employed 
over my books, or playing on the violin — an amuse- 
ment which was the ruling passion of my youth. It 
has also been the source of consolation since, affording 
pleasure to the simple beings with whom my lot was 
cast, and beguiling my own thoughts, for manyhoui-s, 
from the painful contemplation of my fate. 

On Christmas day, 1829, I was married to Anne 


Hampton, a colored girl then living in the vicinity of 
our residence. The ceremony was performed at Fort 
Edward, by Timothy Eddy, Esq., a magistrate of 
that town, and still a prominent citizen of the place. 
She had resided a long time at Sandy Hill, with Mr. 
Baird, proprietor of the Eagle Tavern, and also in the 
family of Rev. Alexander Proudfit, of Salem. This 
gentleman for many years had presided over the Pres- 
byterian society at the latter place, and was widely 
distinguished for his learning and piety. Anne 
still holds in grateful remembrance the exceeding 
kindness and the excellent counsels of that good man. 
She is not able to determine the exact line of her de- 
scent, but the blood of three races mingles in her 
veins. It is difficult to tell whether the red, white, or 
black predominates. The union of them all, however, 
in her origin, has given her a singular but pleasing 
expression, such as is rarely to be seen. Though 
somewhat resembling, yet she cannot properly be 
styled a quadroon, a class to which, I have omitted to 
mention, my mother belonged. 

I had just now passed the period of my minority, 
having reached the age of twenty-one years in the 
month of July previous. Deprived of the advice and 
assistance of my father, with a wife dependent upon 
me for support, I resolved to enter upon a life of in- 
dustry ; and notwithstanding the obstacle of color, 
and the consciousness of my lowly state, indulged in 
pleasant dreams of a good time coming, when the pos 
session of some humble habitation, with a few sur 


roundijg acres, should reward mj labors, and bring 
me the means of happiness and comfort. 

From the time of my marriage to this day the love 
1 have borne my wife has been sincere and unabated; 
and only those who have felt the glowing tenderness 
a father cherishes for his offspring, can appreciate my 
affection for the beloved children which have since 
been bom to us. This much I deem appropriate and 
necessary to say, in order that those who read these 
pages, may comprehend the poignancy of those suf- 
ferings I have been doomed to bear. 

Immediately upon our marriage we commenced 
house-keeping, in the old yellow building then stand- 
ing at the southern extremity of Fort Edward village, 
and which has since been transformed into a modern 
mansion, and lately occupied by Captain Lathrop. 
It is known as the Fort House. In this building the 
courts were sometime held after the organization of 
the county. It was also occupied by Burgoyne in 
1777, being situated near the old Fort on the left bank 
of the Hudson. 

During the winter I was employed with others re- 
pairing the Champlain Canal, on that section over 
which William Van ISTortwick was superintendent. 
David McEachron had the immediate charge of the 
men in whose company I labored. By the time the 
canal opened in the spring, I was enabled, from the 
savings of my wages, to purchase a pair of horses, and 
other things necessarily required in the business of 


Having hired several efficient hands to assist me, I 
entered into contracts for the transportation of large 
rafts of timber from Lake Champlain to Troy. Djer 
Beckwith and a Mr. Bartemy, of Whitehall, accompa- 
nied me on several trips. During the season I be- 
came perfectly familiar with the art and mysteries of 
rafting — a knowledge which afterwards enabled me 
to render profitable service to a worthy master, and 
to astonish the simple-witted lumbermen on the banks 
of the Bayou Boeuf. 

In one of my voyages down Lake Champlain, I was 
induced to make a visit to Canada. Bepairing to 
Montreal, I visited the cathedral and other places of 
interest in that city, from whence I continued my ex- 
cursion to Kingston and other towns, obtaining a 
knowledge of localities, which was also of service to 
me afterwards, as will appear towards the close of 
this narrative. 

Having completed my contracts on the canal satis- 
factorily to myself and to my employer, and not wish- 
ing to remain idle, now that the navigation of the ca- 
nal was again suspended, I entered into another con- 
tract with Medad Gunn, to cut a large quantity of 
wood. Li this business I was engaged during the 
winter of 1831-32. 

"With the return of spring, Anne and myself con- 
ceived the project of taking a farm in the neighbor- 
hood. I had been accustomed from earliest youth to 
agricultural labors, and it was an occupation conge- 
nial to my tastes. I accordingly entered into arrange- 


ments for a part of tlie old Aldeu farm, on whicli my 
fatlier formerly resided. "With one cow, one swine, 
a yoke of fine oxen I had lately purchased of Lewis 
Brown, in Hartford, and other personal property and 
effects, we proceeded to our new home in Eangsbury. 
That year I planted twenty-five acres of com, sowed 
large fields of oats, and commenced farming upon as 
large a scale as my utmost means would permit. 
Anne was diligent about the house affairs, while I 
toiled laboriously in the field. 

On this place we continued to reside until 1834:. 
In the winter season I had numerous calls to play on 
the violin. Wherever the young people assembled to 
dance, I was almost invariably there. Throughout 
the surrounding villages my fiddle was notorious. 
Anne, also, during her long residence at the Eagle 
Tavern, had become somewhat famous as a cook. 
During court weeks, and on public occasions, she was 
employed at high wages in the kitchen at Sherrill's 
Coffee House. 

We always returned home from the performance 
of these services with money in our pockets ; so that, 
with fiddling, cooking, and farming, we soon found 
ourselves in the possession of abundance, and, in fact 
leading a happy and prosperous life. Well, indeed, 
would it have been for us had we remained on the 
farm at Kingsbury; but the time came when the 
next step was to be taken towards the cruel destiny 
that awaited me. 

In March, 1834, we removed to Saratoga Springs 


We occupied a house belonging to Daniel O'Brien, 
on the north side of "Washington street. At that time 
Isaac Taylor kept a large boarding house, known as 
Washington Hall, at the north end of Broadway. He 
employed me to drive a hack, in which capacity 1 
worked for him two years. After this time I was 
generally employed through the visiting season, as 
also was Anne, in the United States Hotel, and other 
public houses of the place. In winter seasons I re- 
lied upon my violin, though during the constructrion 
of the Troy and Saratoga railroad, I performed many 
hard days' labor upon it. 

I was in the habit, at Saratoga, of purchasing arti 
cles necessary foi my family at the stores of Mr. Ce 
phas Parker and Mr. William Perry, gentlemen 
towards whom, for many acts of kindness, I enter- 
tained feelings of strong regard. It was for this rea- 
son that, twelve years afterwards, I caused to be di- 
rected to them the letter, which is hereinafter insert- 
ed, and which was the means, in the hands of Mr. 
J^orthup, of my fortunate deliverance. 

While living at the United States Hotel, I frequent- 
ly met with slaves, who had accompanied their mas- 
ters from the South. They were always well dressed 
and well provided for, leading apparently an easy life, 
with but few of its ordinary troubles to perplex them. 
Many times they entered into conversation with me 
on the subject of Slavery. Almost uniformly I found 
fchey cherished a secret desire for liberty. Some of 

*hem expressed the most ardent anxiety to escape, and 


consulted me on the best method of effecting it. The 
fear of punishment, however, which they knew was 
certain to attend their re-capture and return, in all 
cases proved sufficient to deter them from the exper- 
iment. Having all my life breathed the free air of 
the Korth, and conscious that I possessed the same 
feelings and affections that find a place in the white 
man's breast; conscious, moreover, of an intelligence 
equal to that of some men, at least, with a fairer skin, 
I was too ignorant, perhaps too independent, to con- 
ceive how any one could be content to live in the ab- 
ject condition of a slave. I could not comprehend the 
justice of that law, or that religion, which upholds or 
recognizes the principle of Slavery ; and never once, 
I am proud to say, did I fail to counsel any one who 
came to me, to watch his opportunity, and strike for 

I continued to reside at Saratoga until the spring of 
1841. The flattering anticipations which, seven years 
before, had seduced us from the quiet farm-house, on 
the east side of the Hudson, had not been realized. 
Though always in comfortable circumstances, we 
had not prospered. The society and associations at that 
world-renowned watering place, were not calculated 
to preserve the simple habits of industry and economy 
to which I had been accustomed, but, on the contrary, 
to substitute others in their stead, tending to shift- 
lessness and extravagance. 

At this time we were the parents of three children 
— Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alonzo. Elizabeth, the 


eldest, was in lier tenth year; Margaret was two 
years younger, and little Alonzo had just passed his 
lifth birth-day. They filled onr house with gladness. 
Their young voices were music in our ears. Many an 
airy castle did their mother and myself build for the 
little innocents. When not at labor I was always 
walking with them, clad in their best attire, through 
the streets and groves of Saratoga. Their presence 
was my delight ; and I clasped them to my bosom 
with as warm and tender love as if their clouded skins 
had been as white as snow. 

Thus far the history of my life presents nothing 
whatever unusual — nothing but the common hopes, 
and loves, and labors of an obscure colored man, ma- 
king his humble progress in the world. But now I 
had reached a turning point in my existence — reach- 
ed the threshold of unutterable wrong, and sorrow, 
and despair. ISTow had I approached within the shad- 
ow of the cloud, into the thick darkness whereof I was 
soon to disappear, thenceforward to be hidden from 
the eyes of all my kindred, and shut out from the 
sweet light of liberty, for many a weary year. 





One morning, towards tlie latter part of tlie month 
of March, 1841, having at that time no particular 
business to engage mj attention, I was walking about 
the village of Saratoga Springs, thinking to myself 
where I might obtain some present employment, un- 
til the busy season should arrive. Anne, as was her 
usual custom, had gone over to Sandy Hill, a dis- 
tance of some twenty miles, to take charge of the cu- 
linary department at Sherrill's Coffee House, during 
the session of the court. Elizabeth, I think, had ac- 
companied her. Margaret and Alonzo were with 
their aunt at Saratoga. 

On the corner of Congress street and Broadway, 
near the tavern, then, and for aught I know to the 
contrary, still kept by Mr. Moon, I was met by two 
gentlemen of respectable appearance, both of whom 
were entirely unknown to me. I have tlie impres- 


Bion tliat they were introduced to me by some one of 
my acquaintances, but who, I have in vain endeavor- 
ed to recall, with the remark that I was an expert 
player on the violin. 

At any rate, they immediately entered into conver- 
sation on that subject, making numerous inquiries 
touching my proficiency in that respect. My respon- 
ses being to all appearances satisfactory, they propos- 
ed to engage my services for a short period, stating, 
at the same time, I was just such a person as their 
business required. Their names, as they afterwards 
gave them to me, were Merrill Brown and Abram 
Hamilton, though whether these were their true ap- 
pellations, I have strong reasons to doubt. The for- 
mer was a man apparently forty years of age, some- 
what short and thick-set, with a countenance indica- 
ting shrewdness and intelligence. He wore a black 
frock coat and black hat, and said he resided either at 
Rochester or at Syracuse. The latter was a young 
man of fair complexion and light eyes, and, I should 
judge, had not passed the age of twenty-five. He 
was tall and slender, dressed in a snuff-colored coat, 
with glossy hat, and vest of elegant pattern. His 
whole apparel was in the extreme of fashion. His 
appearance was somewhat effeminate, but prepossess- 
ing, and there was about him an easy air, that showed 
he had mingled with the world. Tliey were connect- 
ed, as they informed me, with a circus company, then 
in the city of Washington ; that they were on their 


way thither to rejoin it, having left it for a short time 
to make an excursion northward, for the purJ)ose of 
seeing the country, and were paying their expenses 
by an occasional exhibition. They also remarked 
that they had found much difficulty in procuring mu- 
sic for their entertainments, and that if I would ac- 
company them as far as New- York, they would give 
me one dollar for each day's services, and three dol- 
lars in addition for every night I played at their per- 
formances, besides sufficient to pay the expenses of 
my return from New- York to Saratoga. 

I at once accepted the tempting offer, both for the 
reward it promised, and from a desire to visit the 
metropolis. They were anxious to leave immediately. 
Thinking my absence would Tdc brief, I did not deem 
it necessary to write to Anne whither I had gone ; 
in fact supposing that my return, perhaps, would be 
as soon as hers. So taking a change of linen and my 
violin, I was ready to depart. Tlie carriage was 
brought round — a covered one, drawn by a pair of 
noble bays, altogether forming an elegant establish- 
ment. Their baggage, consisting of three large 
trunks, was fastened on the rack, and mounting to 
the di-iver's seat, while they took their places in the 
rear, I di'ove away from Saratoga on the road to 
Albany, elated with my new position, and happy as 

1 had ever been, on any day in all my life. 

We passed through Ballston, and striking the ridge 
road, as it is called, if my memory correctly serves 


me, followed it direct to Albany. We reached that 
city before dark, and stopped at a hotel southward 
from the Musenm. 

This night I had an opportunity of witnessing one 
of their performances — the only one, during the whole 
period I was with them. Hamilton was stationed at 
the door ; I formed the orchestra, while Brown pro- 
vided the entertainment. It consisted in throwing 
balls, dancing on the rope, frying pancakes in a hat, 
causing invisible pigs to squeal, and other like feats 
of ventriloquism and legerdemain. The audience 
was extraordinarily sparse, and not of the selectest 
character at that, and Hamilton's report of the pro- 
ceeds presented but a " beggarly account of empty 

Early next morning we renewed our journey. The 
burden of their conversation now was the expression 
of an anxiety to reach the circus without delay. 
They hurried forward, without again stopping to ex- 
hibit, and in due course of time, we reached E'ew- 
York, taking lodgings at a house on the west side of 
the city, in a street running from Broadway to the 
river. I supposed my journey was at an end, and 
expected in a day or two at least, to return to my 
friends and family at Saratoga. Brown and Hamil- 
ton, however, began to importune me to continue with 
•them to Washington. They alleged that immediately 
on their arrival, now that the summer season was ap- 
proaching, the circus would set out for the north. 
They promised me a situation and high wages if I 


would accompany them. Largely did they expatiate 
on the advantages that would result to me, and such 
were the flattering representations they made, that 1 
finally concluded to accept the offer. 

The next morning they suggested that, inasmuch 
as we were ahout entering a slave State, it would be 
well, before leaving New-York, to procure free pa- 
pers. The idea struck me as a prudent one, though 1 
think it would scarcely have occurred to me, had they 
not proposed it. "We proceeded at once to what I un- 
derstood to be the Custom House. They made oath to 
certain facts showing I was a free man. A paper was 
drawn up and handed us, with the direction to take it 
to the clerk's oflice. 'We did so, and the clerk having 
added something to it, for which he" was paid six sliil 
lings, we returned again to the Custom House. Some 
further formalities were gone through with before it 
was completed, when, paying the officer two dollars, 
I placed the papers in my pocket, and started with 
my two friends to our hotel. I thought at the time, 
I must confess, that the papers were scarcely worth the 
cost of obtaining them — the apprehension of danger 
to my personal safety never having suggested itself 
to me in the remotest manner. The clerk, to whom 
we were directed, I remember, made a memorandum 
in a large book, which, I presume, is in the office 
yet. A reference to the entries during the latter part 
of March, or first of April, 1841, I have no doubt 
will satisfy the incredulous, at least so fai* as this par- 
ticular transaction is concerned. 


With the evidence of freedom in my possession, the 
next day after our arrival in IS'ew-York, we crossed 
the ferry to Jersey City, and took the road to Phila- 
delphia. Here we remained one night, continuing 
our journey towards Baltimore early in the morning. 
In due time, we arrived in the latter city, and stopped 
at a hotel near the railroad depot, either kept by a 
Mr. Eathbone, or known as the Rathbone House. 
All the way from ITew-York, their anxiety to reach 
the circus seemed to grow more and more intense. 
We left the carriage at Baltimore, afid entering the 
cars, proceeded to Washington, at which place we 
arrived just at nightfall, the evening previous to the 
funeral of General Harrison, and stopped at Gadsby's 
Hotel, on Pennsylvania Avenue. 

After supper they called me to their apartments, 
and paid me forty-three dollars, a sum greater than 
my wages amounted to, which act of generosity was 
in consequence, they said, of their not having exhib- 
ited as often as they had given me to anticipate, du- 
rmg our trip from Saratoga. They moreover inform- 
ed me that it had been the intention of the circus 
company to leave Washington the next morning, but 
that on account of the ttineral, they had concluded to 
remain another day. ihej were then, as they had been 
from the time of ouj first meeting, extremely kind. 
]^o opportunity was omitted of addressing me in the 
language of app. ybation ; while, on the other hand, 
I was certainly much prepossessed in their favor. I 
B* 3 


gave them my confidence without reserve, and w( uld 
freely have trusted them to almost any extent. Their 
constant conversation and manner towards me — their 
foresight in suggesting the idea of free papers, and a 
hundred other little acts, unnecessary to be repeated — 
all indicated that they were friends indeed, sincerely 
solicitous for my welfare. I know not but they were. 
I know not but they were innocent of the great wick- 
edness of which I now believe them guilty. Whether 
they were accessory to my misfortunes — subtle and 
inliuman monsters in the shape of men — designedly 
luring me away from home and family, and liberty, 
for the sake of gold — those who read these pages 
will have the same means of determining as myself. 
If they were innocent, my sudden disappearance 
must have been unaccountable indeed; but revolv- 
ing in my mind all the attending circumstances, I 
never yet could indulge, towards them, so charitable 
a supposition. 

After receiving the money from them, of which 
they appeared to have an abundance, they advised 
me not to go into the streets that night, inasmuch 
as I was unacquainted with the customs of the city. 
Promising to remember their advice, I left them to- 
gether, and soon after was shown by a colored ser- 
vant to a sleeping room in the back part of the hotel, 
on the ground floor. I laid down to rest, thinking of 
home and wife, and children, and the long distance 
that stretched between us, until I fell asleep. But 


no good angel of pity came to my bedside, bidding 
me to fly — no voice of mercy forewarned me in my 
dreams of the trials that were just at hand. 

The next day there was a great pageant in Wasu- 
ington. The roar of cannon and the tolling of bells 
filled the air, while many houses were shrouded Avith 
crape, and the streets were black with people. As 
the day advanced, the procession made its appear 
ance, coming slowly through the Avenue, carnage 
after carriage, in long succession, while thousands 
upon thousands followed on foot — all moving to the 
sound of melanclioly music. They were bearing the 
dead body of Harrison to the grave. 

From early in the morning, I was constantly in the 
company of Hamilton and Brown. They were the 
only persons I knew in Washington. We stood to- 
gether as the fimeral pomp passed by. I remember 
distinctly how the window glass would break and 
rattle to the ground, after each report of the cannon 
they were firing in the burial ground. We went to the 
Capitol, and walked a long time about the grounds. 
In the afternoon, they strolled towards the Presi- 
dent's House, all th,e time keeping me near to them, 
and pointing out various places of interest. As yet, 
I had seen nothing of the circus. In fact, I had 
thought of it but little, if at all, amidst the excite- 
ment of the day. 

My friends, several times during the afternoon, en- 
tered drinking saloons, and called for liquor. They 
were by no means in the habit, however, so far as 1 


knew them, of indulging to excess. On these occa- 
sions, after serving themselves, they would pour out 
a ghiss and hand it to me. I did not become intoxi- 
cated, as may be inferred from what subsequently 
occurred. Towards evening, and soon after parta- 
king of one of these potations, I began to experience 
most unpleasant sensations. I felt extremely ill. My 
head commenced aching — a dull, heavy pain, inex- 
pressibly disagreeable. At the supper table, I was 
without appetite ; the sight and flavor of food was 
nauseous. About dark the same servant conducted 
me to the room I had occupied the ]3revious night. 
Brown and Hamilton advised me to retire, commise- 
rating me kindly, and expressing hopes that I would be 
better in the morning. Divesting myself of coat and 
boots merely, I threw myself upon the bed. It was 
impossible to sleep. The pain in my head continued 
to increase, until it became almost unbearable. In a 
short time I became thirsty. My lips were parched. 
I could think of nothing but water — of lakes and 
flowing rivers, of brooks where I had stooped to 
drink, and of the dripping bucket, rising with its cool 
and overflowing nectar, from the bottom of the well. 
Towards midnight, as near as I could judge, I arose, 
unable longer to bear such intensity of thirst. I 
was a stranger in the house, and knew nothing of its 
apartments. Tliere was no one up, as I could observe. 
Groping about at random, I knew not where, I found 
the way at last to a kitchen in the basement. Two 
or three colored servants were moving through it, one 

THE tor:ment of thirst. 37 

of whom, a woman, gave me two glasses of water. 
It afforded momentary relief, but by the time I bad 
reached my room again, the same bm-ning desire of 
drink, the same tormenting thirst, had again returned. 
It was even more torturing than before, as was also 
the wild pain in my head, if such a thing could be. 
I was in sore distress — in most excruciating agony ! 
I seemed to stand on the brink of madness ! The 
memory of that night of horrible suffering will fol 
low me to the grave. 

In the course of an hour or more after my return 
from the kitchen, I was conscious of some one enter- 
ing my room. Tliere seemed to be several — a ming- 
ling of various voices, — but how many, or who 
they were, I cannot tell. Whether Brown and Hamil- 
ton were am-ong them, is a mere matter of conjecture. 
I only remember, with any degree of distinctness, 
that I was told it was necessary to go to a physician 
and procure medicine, and that pulling on my boots, 
without coat or hat, I followed them through a long 
passage-way, or alley, into the open street. It ran 
out at right angles from Pennsylvania Avenue. On 
the opposite side there was a light burning in a win- 
dow. My impression is there were then three per- 
sons with me, but it is altogether indefinite and 
vague, and like the memory of a painful dream. 
Going towards the light, which I imagined proceed- 
ed from a physician's office, and which seemed to re- 
cede as I advanced, is the last glimmering recollec- 
tion I can now recall. From tluit moment I was 


insensible. How lonsr I remained in that condition — 
whether only that niglit, or many days and nights — 
I do not know ; but when consciousness returned, I 
found myself alone, in utter darkness, and in chains. 
The pain in my head had subsided in a measui*e, 
but I was very faint and weak. I was sitting upon a 
low bench, made of rough boards, and without coat 
or hat. I was hand-cuifed. Around my ankles also 
were a pair of heavy fetters. One end of a chain was 
fastened to a large ring in the floor, the other to the 
fetters on my ankles. I tried in vain to stand upon 
my feet. "Waking from such a painful trance, it 
was some time before I could collect my thoughts. 
Where was I? Wliat was the meaning of these 
chains ? Wliere were Brown and Hamilton ? What 
had I done to deserve imprisonment in such a dun- 
geon ? I could not comprehend. There was a blank 
of some indefinite ]3eriod, preceding my awakening 
in that lonely place, the events of which the utmost 
stretch of memory was unable to recall. I listened 
intently for some sign or sound of life, but nothing 
broke the oppressive silence, save the clinking of my 
chains, whenever I chanced to move. I spoke aloud, 
but the sound of my voice startled me. I felt of my 
pockets, so far as the fetters would allow — far enough, 
indeed, to ascertain that I had not only been robbed 
of liberty, but that my money and free papers were 
also gone ! Then did the idea begin to break upon 
my mind, at first dim and confused, that I had been 
kidnapped. But that I thought was incredible. 


There must liave been some misapprehension — some 
unfortunate mistake. It could not be that a free 
citizen of New- York, who had wronged no man, nor 
violated any law, should be dealt with thus inhumanly. 
The more I contemplated my situation, however, the 
more I became confirmed in my suspicions. It was a 
desolate thought, indeed. I felt there was no trust or 
mercy in unfeeling man ; and commending myself to 
the God of the oppressed, bowed my head upon my 
fettered hands, and wept most bitterly. 








Some three hours elapsed, during which time 1 re- 
mained seated on the low bench, absorbed in painful 
meditations. At length I heard the crowing of a 
cock, and soon a distant rumbling sound, as of car- 
riages hurrying through the streets, came to my ears, 
and I knew that it was day. l^o ray of light, how- 
ever, penetrated my prison. Finally, I heard foot- 
steps immediately overhead, as of some one walking 
to and fro. It occurred to me then that I must be 
in an underground apartment, and the damp, mouldy 
odors of the place confirmed the supposition. The 
noise above continued for at least an hour, when, 
at last, I heard footsteps approaching from without. 
A key rattled in the lock — a strong door swung back 
upon its hinges, admitting a flood of light, and two 
men entered and stood before me. One of them was 
a largo, powerful man, forty years of age, perhaps, 


With dark, cliestniit-colored hair, slightly interspersed 
with gray. His face was full, his complexion flush, 
his features grossly coarse, expressive of nothing but 
cruelty and cunning. He was about five feet ten 
inches high, of full habit, and, without prejudice, I 
must be allowed to say, was a man whose whole ap 
pearance was sinister and repngnant. His name was 
James H. Burch, as I learned afterwards — a well- 
known slave-dealer in Washington ; and then, or late- 
ly, connected in business, as a partner, with Tlieophi- 
lus Freeman, of J^ew-Orleans. The person who 
accompanied him was a simple lackey, named Ebe- 
nezer Eadburn, who acted merely in the capacity of 
turnkey. Both of these men still live in Washington, 
or did, at the time of my return through that city 
from slavery in January last. 

The light admitted through the open door enabled 
me to observe the room in which I was confined. It 
was about twelve feet square ^ — the walls of solid ma- 
sonry. The floor was of heavy plank. There was 
one small window, crossed with great iron bars, with 
an outside shutter, securely fastened. 

An iron-bound door led into an adjoining cell, or 
vault, wholly destitute of windows, or any means of 
admitting light. The furniture of the room in which 
I was, consisted of the wooden bench on which I sat, 
an old-fashioned, dirty box stove, and besides these, 
in either cell, there was neither bed, nor blanket, nor 
any other thing whatever. The door, through which 


Biircli and Eadbiirn entered, led tlirougli a small 
passage, up a fliglit of steps into a yard, surrounded 
bj a brick wall ten or twelve feet liigli, immediately 
in rear of a building of the same width as itself. 
The yard extended rearward from the house about 
thirty feet. In one part of the wall there was a 
strongly ironed door, opening into a narrow, covered 
passage, leading along one side of the house into the 
street. Tlie doom of the colored man, upon whom 
the door leading out of that narrow passage closed, 
was sealed. The top of the wall supported one end 
of a roof, which ascended inwards, forming a kind of 
open shed. Underneath the roof there was a crazy 
loft all round, where slaves, if so disposed, might 
sleep at night, or in inclement weather seek shelter 
from the storm. It was like a farmer's barnyard in 
most respects, save it was so constructed that the out- 
Bide world could never see the human cattle that were 
herded there. 

The building to which the yard was attached, was 
two stories high, fronting on one of the public streets 
of Washington. Its outside presented only the ap- 
pearance of a qoiet private residence. A stranger 
looking at it, would never have dreamed of its exe- 
crable uses. Strange as it may seem, within plain 
sight of this same house, looking down from its com- 
manding height upon it, was the Capitol. Tlie voices 
of patriotic representatives boasting of freedom and 
equality, and the rattling of the poor slave's chains. 


almost commingled. A slave pen within tlie verv 
shadow of the Capitol! 

Such is a correct description as it was in 1841, of 
Williams' slave pen in Washington, in one of the eel 
lars of which I found myself so unaccountably con- 

" Well, my boy, how do you feel now ?" said 
Burch, as he entered through the open door. I re- 
plied that I was sick, and inquired the cause of my 
imprisonment. He answered that I was his slave — 
that he had bought me, and that he was about to send 
me to New-Orleans. I asserted, aloud and boldly, 
that I was a free man — a resident of Saratoga, where 
I had a wife and children, who were also free, and 
that my name was JSforthup. I complained bitterly 
of the strange treatment 1 had received, and threat 
ened, upon my liberation, to have satisfaction for the 
wrong. He denied that I was free, and with an em 
phatic oath, declared that I came from Georgia. 
Again and again I asserted I was no man's slave, and 
insisted upon his taking off my chains at once. He 
endeavored to hush me, as if he feared my voice 
would be overheard. But I would not be silent, and 
denounced the authors of my imprisonment, whoever 
they might be, as unmitigated villains. Finding he 
could not quiet me, he flew into a towering passion. 
With blasphemous oaths, he called me a black liar, a 
unaw?.y from Georgia, and every other profane and 


vulgar epitliet that the most indecent fancy could 

During this time Radburn was standing silently 
by. His business was, to oversee this human, or 
rather inhuman stable, receiving slaves, feeding and 
whipping them, at the rate of two shillings a head 
per day. Turning to him, Burch ordered the paddle 
and cat-o'-ninetails to be brought in. He disappear- 
ed, and in a few moments returned with these in 
Btmments of torture. The paddle, as it is termed in 
slave-beating joarlance, or at least the one with which I 
first became acquainted, and of which I now speak, was 
a piece of hard-wood board, eighteen or twenty inches 
long, moulded to the shape of an old-fashioned pudding 
stick, or ordinary oar. The flattened portion, which 
was about the size in circumference of two open 
hands, was bored with a small auger in numerous 
places. The cat was a large rope of many strands — 
the strands unraveled, and a knot tied at the extrem- 
ity of each. 

As soon as these formidable whips ajjpeared, I was 
seized by both of them, and roughly divested of my 
clothing. My feet, as has been stated, were fastened 
to the floor. Drawing me over the bench, face down- 
wards, Radburn placed his heavy foot upon the fet- 
ters, between my wrists, holding them painfully to the 
floor. With the paddle, Burch commenced beating 
me. Blow after blow was inflicted upon my naked 
body. When his unrelenting arm grew tired, ha 

')C''v.'S'^ / 



stopped and asked if I still insisted I was a free man. 
I did insist upon it, and then the blows were renewed, 
faster and more energetically, if possible, than before. 
"Wlieii again tired, he would repeat the same question, 
and receiving the same answer, continue his cruel 
labor. All this time, the incarnate devil was utter- 
ing most fiendish oaths. At length the paddle broke, 
leaving the useless handle in his hand. Still I would 
not yield. All his brutal blows could not force from 
my lips the foul lie that I was a slave. Casting mad- 
ly on the floor the handle of the broken paddle, he 
seized the rope. This was far more painful than the 
other. I struggled with all my power, but it w^as in 
vain. I prayed for mercy, but my prayer was only 
answered with imprecations and with stripes. I 
thought I must die beneath the lashes of the accursed 
brute. Even now the flesh crawls upon my bones, as 
I recall the scene. I was all on fire. My sufferings 
I can compare to nothing else than the burning ago- 
nies of hell ! 

At last I became silent to his repeated questions. 
I would make no reply. In fact, I was becoming al- 
most unable to speak. Still he plied the lash without 
stint upon my poor body, until it seemed that the 
lacerated fiesh was stripped from my bones at every 
stroke. A man with a particle of mercy in his soul 
would not have beaten even a dog so cruelly. At 
length Kadburn said that it was useless to whip 
me any more — that I would be sore enough. There- 
upon, Burch desisted, saying, with an admonitory 


shake of his fist in my face, and hissing the words 
tlirongh his firm-set teeth, that if ever I dared to 
utter again that I was entitled to my freedom, that I 
had been kidnapped, or any thing whatever of the 
kind, the castigation I had just received was nothing 
in comparison with what would follow. He swore 
that he would either conquer or kill me. With these 
consolatory words, the fetters were taken from my 
wrists, my feet still remaining fastened to the ring ; 
the shutter of the little barred window, which had 
been opened, was again closed, and going out, lock- 
ing the great door behind them, I was left in dark- 
ness as before. 

In an hour, perhaps two, my heart leaped to my 
throat, as the key rattled in the door again. I, who 
had been so lonely, and who had longed so ar- 
dently to see some one, I cared not who, now shud- 
dered at the thought of man's approach. A human 
face was fearful to me, especially a white one. Rad- 
bum entered, bringing with him, on a tin plate, a 
piece of shriveled fried pork, a slice of bread and a 
cup of water. He asked me how I felt, and remark- 
ed that I had received a pretty severe flogging. He 
remonstrated with me against the propriety of as- 
serting my freedom. In rather a patronizing and 
confidential manner, he gave it to me as his advice, 
that the less I said on that subject the better it would 
be for me. The man evidently endeavored to ajDpear 
kind — whether touched at the sight of my sad condi- 
tion, or with the view of silencing, on my part, any 

THE WHIPPma. 4:7 

farther expression of mj rights, it is not necessary 
now to conjecture. He unlocked the fetters from my 
ankles, opened the shutters of the little window, and 
departed, leaving me again alone. 

By this time I had become stiff and sore ; my 
body was covered with blisters, and it was with great 
pain and difficulty that I could move. From the 
window I could observe nothing but the roof resting 
on the adjacent wall. At night I laid down^uponthe 
damp, hard floor, without any pillow or covering 
whatever. Punctually, twice a day, Eadbum came 
in, with his pork, and bread, and water. I had but 
little appetite, though I was tormented with contin- 
ual thirst. My wounds would not permit me to re- 
main but a few minutes in any one position ; so, sit- 
ting, or standing, or moving slowly round, I passed 
the days and nights. I was heart sick and discour- 
aged. Thoughts of my family, of my wife and chil- 
dren, continually occupied my mind. When sleep 
overpowered me I dreamed of them — dreamed I was 
again in Saratoga — that I could see their faces, and 
hear their voices calling me. Awakening from the 
pleasant phantasms of sleep to the bitter realities 
around me, I could but groan and weep. Still my 
spirit was not broken. I indulged the anticipation of 
escape, and that speedily. It was impossible, I rea- 
soned, that men could be so unjust as to detain me as 
a slave, when the truth of my case was known. 
Burch, ascertaining I was no runaway from Georgia, 
would certainly let me go. Though suspicions of 


Brown and Hamilton were not unfrequent, I could 
not reconcile myself to the idea that thej were in- 
strumental to my imprisonment. Surely they would 
seek me out — they would deliver me from thraldom. 
Alas ! I had not then learned the measure of " man's 
inhumanity to man," nor to what limitless extent of 
wickedness he will go for the love of gain. 

In the course of several days the outer door was 
thrown open, allowing me the liberty of the yard. 
There I found three slaves — one of them a lad of ten 
years, the others young men of about twenty and 
twenty-five. I was not long in forming an acquaint- 
ance, and learning their names and the particulars of 
their history. 

The eldest was a colored man named Clemens Kay. 
He had lived in Washington ; had driven a hack, and 
worked in a livery stable there for a long time. He 
was very intelligent, and fully comprehended his sit- 
uation. The thought of going south overwhelmed 
him with grief Burch had purchased him a few 
days before, and had placed him there until such time 
as he was ready to send him to the ]^ew-Orleans mar 
ket. From him I learned for the first time that I was 
in William's Slave Pen, a place I had never heard of 
previously. He described to me the uses for which 
it was designed. I repeated to him the particulars of 
my unhappy story, but he could only give me "the 
consolation of his sympathy. He also advised me to 
be silent henceforth on the subject of my freedom, 
for, knowing the character of Burch, he assured me 


that it would only be attended with renewed whip- 
ping. The next eldest was named John Williams. He 
was raised in Virginia, not far from Washington. 
Burch had. taken him in payment of a debt, and he 
constantly entertained the hope that his master would 
redeem him — a hope that was subsequently realized. 
The lad was a sprightly child, that answered to the 
name of Kandall. Most of the time he was playing 
about the yard, but occasionally would cry, calling 
for his mother, and wondering when she would come. 
His mother's absence seemed to be the great and only 
grief in his little heart. He was too young to realize 
his condition, and when the memory of his mother 
was not in his mind, he amused us with his pleasant 

At night, Eay, Williams, and the boy, slept in the 
loft of the shed, while I was locked in the cell. Fi- 
nally we were each provided with blankets, such as 
are used upon horses — the only bedding I was allow- 
ed to have for twelve years afterwards. Ray and 
Williams asked me many questions about ISTew-York 
— how colored peojDle were treated there ; how they 
could have homes and famiKes of their own, with none 
to disturb and oppress them ; and Eay, especially, 
sighed continually for freedom. Such conversations, 
however, were not in the hearing of Burch, or the 
keeper Eadburn. Aspirations such as these would 
have brought down the lash upon our backs. 

It is necessary in this narrative, in order to present 
a full and truthful statement of all the principal events 
C * 4 


in the history of mj life, and to portray the instita 
tion of Slavery as I have seen and known it, to speak 
of well-known places, and of many persons who are 
yet living. I am, and always was, an entire stranger 
in "Washington and its vicinity — aside from Burch 
and Radbum, knowing no man there, except as I have 
heard of them through my enslaved companions. 
What I am about to say, if false, can be easily con- 

I remained in Williams' slave pen about two 
weeks. The night previous to my departure a woman 
was brought in, weeping bitterly, and leading by the 
hand a little child. They were Randall's mother and 
half-sister. On meeting them he was overjoyed, 
clinging to her dress, kissing the child, and exhibit- 
ing every demonstration of delight. The mother also 
clasped him in her arms, embraced him tenderly, and 
gazed at him fondly through her tears, calling him by 
many an endearing name. 

Emily, the child, was seven or eight years old, of 
light complexion, and with a face of admirable beau- 
ty. Her hair fell in curls around her neck, while the 
style and richness of her dress, and the neatness of 
her whole appearance indicated she had been brought 
up in the midst of wealth. She was a sweet child 
indeed. Tlie woman also was arrayed in silk, with 
rings upon her fingers, and golden ornaments sus- 
pended from her ears. Her ah* and manners, the cor- 
rectness and propriety of her language — all showed, 
evidently, that she had sometime stood above the 


common level of a slave. She seemed to be amazed 
at finding herself in such a place as that. It was 
plainly a sudden and unexpected turn of fortune that 
Lad brought her there. Filling the air with her com- 
plainings, she was hustled, with the children and my- 
self, into the cell. Language can convey but an inad- 
equate impression of the lamentations to which she 
gave incessant utterance. Throwing herself upon the 
floor, and encircling the children in her arms, she 
poured forth such touching words as only maternal 
love and kindness can suggest. They nestled closely 
to her, as if there only was there any safety or pro- 
tection. At last they slept, their heads resting upon 
her lap. While they slumbered, she smoothed the 
hair back from their little foreheads, and talked to 
them all night long. She called them her darlings — ■ 
her sweet babes — poor innocent things, that knew 
not the misery they were destined to endure. Soon 
they would have no mother to comfort them — they 
would be taken from her. What would become of 
them ? Oh ! she could not live away from her little 
Emmy and her dear boy. They had always been 
good children, and had such loving ways. It would 
break her heart, God knew, she said, if they were ta 
ken from her ; and yet she knew they meant to sell 
them, and, may be, they would be separated, and 
could never see each other any more. It was enough 
10 melt a heart of stone to listen to the pitiful ex- 
pressions of that desolate and distracted mother. Her 


name was Eliza ; and this was the story of her life, as 
she afterwards related it : 

She was the slave of Elisha Berry, a rich man, liv- 
ing in the neighborhood of Washington. She was 
born, I think she said, on his plantation. Years be- 
fore, he had fallen into dissipated habits, and quarrel- 
ed with his wife. In fact, soon after the birth of 
Randall, they separated. Leaving his wife and daugh- 
ter in the house they had always occupied, he erected 
a new one near by, on the estate. Into this house he 
brought Eliza ; and, on condition of her living with 
him, she and her children were to be emancipated. 
She resided with him tJiere nine years, with servants 
to attend upon her, and provided with every comfort 
and luxury of life. Emily was his child ! Finally, 
her young mistress, who had always remained with 
her mother at the homestead, married a Mr. Jacob 
Brooks. At length, for some cause, (as I gathered 
from her relation,) beyond Berry's control, a division 
of his property was made. She and her children fell 
to the share of Mr.^ Brooks. During the nine years 
she had lived with Berry, in consequence of the posi- 
tion she was compelled to occupy, she and Emily had 
oecome the object of Mrs. Berry and her daughter's 
hatred and dislike. Berry himself she represented as 
a man of naturally a kind heart, who always promis- 
ed her that she should have her freedom, and who, 
she had no doubt, would grant it to her then, if it 
were only in his power. As soon as they thus came 


into tlie possession and control of the daughter, it be- 
came very manifest they would not live long together. 
The sight of Eliza seemed to be odious to Mrs. Brooks ; 
neither could she bear to look upon the child, half- 
sister, and beautiful as she was ! 

The day she was led into the pen, Brooks had 
brought her from the estate into the city, under pre- 
tence that the time had come when her free papers 
were to be executed, in fulfillment of her master's 
promise. Elated at the prospect of immediate liber- 
ty, she decked herself and little Emmy in their best 
apparel, and accompanied him with a joyful heart. 
On their arrival in the city, instead of being baptized 
into the family of freemen, she was delivered to the 
trader Burch. The paper that was executed was a 
bill of sale. Tlie hope of years was blasted in a mo- 
ment. From the hight of most exulting happiness 
to the utmost depths of wretchedness, she had that 
day descended. 'No wonder that she wept, and filled 
the pen with wailings and expressions of heart-rend- 
ing woe. 

Eliza is now dead. Far up the Eed Eiver, where 
it pours its waters sluggishly through the unhealthy 
low lands of Louisiana, she rests in the grave at last — ■ 
the only resting place of the poor slave ! How all her 
fears were realized — how she mourned day and night, 
and never would be comforted — how, as she predict- 
ed, her heart did indeed break, with the burden oi 
maternal sorrow, will be seen as the narrative pro 








At intervals during tlie first niglit of Eliza's incar- 
ceration in tlie pen, she complained bitterly of Jacob 
Brooks, ber young mistress' husband. She declared 
that had she been aware of the deception he intended 
to practice upon her, he never would have brought 
her there alive. They had chosen the opportunity of 
getting her away when Master Berry was absent from 
the plantation. He had always been kind to her. 
She wished that she could see him ; but she knew that 
even he was unable now to rescue her. Then would 
she commence weeping again — kissing the sleeping 
children — talking first to one, then to the other, as 
they lay in their unconscious slumbers, with their 
heads upon her lap. So wore the long night away ; 
and when the morning dawned, and night had come 
again, still she kept mourning on, and would not be 


About midnight following, the cell door opened, 
and Burch and Radburn entered, with lanterns in 
their hands. Burch, with an oath, ordered us to roll 
up our blankets without delay, and get ready to go 
on board the boat. He swore we would be left unless 
we hurried fast. He aroused the children from their 
slumbers with a rough shake, and said they were 
d — d sleepy, it appeared. Going out into the yard, 
he called Clem Ray, ordering him to leave the loft 
and come into the cell, and bring his blanket with 
him. When Clem appeared, he placed us side by 
side, and fastened us together with hand-cuffs — my 
left hand to his right. John Williams had been ta- 
ken out a day or two before, his master having 
redeemed him, greatly to his delight. Clem and I 
were ordered to march, Eliza and the children fol- 
lowing. We were conducted into the yard, from 
thence into the covered passage, and up a flight of 
steps through a side door into the upper room, where 
I had heard the walking to and fro. Its furniture was 
a stove, a few old chairs, and a long table, covered 
with papers. It was a white-washed room, without 
any carpet on the floor, and seemed a sort of office. 
By one of the windows, I remember, hung a rusty 
sword, which attracted my attention. Burch's trunk 
was there. In obedience to his orders, I took hold of 
one of its handles with my unfettered hand, while he 
taking hold of the other, we proceeded out of the 
front door into the street in the same order as we had 
]eft the cell. 


It was a dark night. All was quiet. I could see 
lights, or the reflection of them, over towards Penn- 
sylvania Avenue, but there was no one, not even a 
straggler, to be seen. I was almost resolved to at- 
tempt to break away. Had I not been hand-cuffed 
the attempt would certainly have been made, what 
ever conserpience might have followed. Eadburn 
was in the rear, carrying a large stick, and hurrying 
up the children as fast as the little ones could walk. 
So we passed, hand-cuffed and in silence, through the 
streets of Washington — through the Capital of a na- 
tion, whose theory of government, we are told, rests 
on the foundation of man's inalienable right to life, 
LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness ! Hail ! Co- 
lumbia, happy land, indeed ! 

Reaching the steamboat, we were quickly hustled 
into the hold, among barrels and boxes of freight. A 
colored servant brought a light, the bell rung, and 
soon the vessel started down the Potomac, carrying 
ns we knew not where. Tlie bell tolled as we passed 
the tomb of Washington ! Burch, no doubt, with un- 
covered head, bowed reverently before the sacred ash- 
es of the man who devoted his illustrious life to the 
liberty of his country. 

l^one of us slept that night but Eandall and little 
Emmy. For the fii-st time Clem Ray was wholly 
overcome. To him the idea of going south was ter 
rible in the extreme. He was leaving the friends and 
associations of his youth — every thing that was dear 
and precious to his heart — in all probability never 


to return. He and Eliza mingled their tears together, 
bemoaning tlieir cruel fate. For my own part, diffi- 
cult as it was, I endeavored to keep up my spirits. I 
resolved in my mind a hundred plans of escape, and 
fully determined to make the attemj^t the first despe- 
rate chance that offered. I had by this time become 
satisfied, however, that my true policy was to say no- 
thing further on the subject of my having been born a 
freeman. It would but expose me to mal-treatment, 
and diminish the chances of liberation. 

After sunrise in the morning we were called up on 
deck to breakfast. Burch took our hand-cuffs off, and 
w^e sat down to table. He asked Eliza if she would 
take a dram. She declined, thanking him politely. 
During the meal we were all silent — not a word pass- 
ed between us. A mulatto woman who served at ta- 
ble seemed to take an interest in our behalf — told us 
to cheer up, and not to be so cast down. Breakfast 
over, the hand-cuffs were restored, and Burch ordered 
us out on the stern deck. We sat down together on 
some boxes, still saying nothing in Burch's presence. 
Occasionally a passenger would walk out to wdiere 
we were, look at us for a while, then silently return 

It was a very pleasant morning. The fields along 
the river were covered with verdure, far in advance 
of what I had been accustomed to see at that season 
of the year. Tlie sun shone out warmly ; the birds 
were singing in the trees. The happy birds — I en- 
vied them. I wished for wings like them, that I 
might cleave the air to where my birdlings waited 


vainly for tlieir father's coming, in the cooler region 
of the North. 

In the forenoon the steamer reached Aqnia Creek. 
Tliere the passengers took stages — Burch and his five 
slaves occupying one exclusively. He laughed with 
the children, and at one stopping place went so far as 
to purchase them a piece of gingerbread. He told 
me to hold up my head and look smart. That I 
might, perhaps, get a good master if I behaved my- 
self. I made him no reply. His face was hateful to 
me, and I could not bear to look upon it. I sat in 
the corner, cherishing in my heart the hope, not yet 
extinct, of some day meeting the tyrant on the soil of 
my native State. 

At Fredericksburgh we were transferred from the 
stage coach to a car, and before dark arrived in Rich- 
mond, the chief city of Virginia. At this city we 
were taken from the cars, and driven through the 
street to a slave pen, between the railroad depot and 
the river, kept by a Mr. Goodin. This pen is similar 
to Williams' in Washington, except it is somewhat 
larger; and besides, there were two small houses 
standing at opposite corners within the yard. Tliese 
houses are usually found within slave yards, being 
used as rooms for the examination of human chattels 
by purchasers before concluding a bargain. Un- 
soundness in a slave, as well as in a horse, detracts 
materially from his value. If no warranty is given, 
a close examination is a matter of particular impor- 
tance to the negro jockey. 


We were met at the door of Goodiii's yard by that 
gentleman himself — a short, fat man, with a round, 
plump face, black hair and whiskers, and a complex- 
ion almost as dark as some of his own negroes. He 
had a hard, stern look, and was perhaps about fifty 
years of age. Burch and he met with great cordiali- 
ty. They were evidently old friends. Shaking each 
other warmly by the hand, Burch remarked he had 
brought some company, inquired at what time the 
brig would leave, and was answered that it would 
probably leave the next day at such an hour. Good- 
in then turned to me, took hold of my arm, turned 
me partly round, looked at me sharply with the air of 
one who considered himself a good judge of property, 
and as if estimating in his own mind about how 
much I was worth. 

" Well, boy, where did you come from ?" 

Forgetting myself, for a moment, I answered, 
" From ISTew-York." 

" New- York ! H — 1 ! what have you been doing 
ap there ?" was his astonished interrogatory. 

Observing Burch at this moment looking at me with 
an angry expression that conveyed a meaning it was 
not difficult to understand, I immediately said, " O, I 
have only been up that way a piece," in a manner 
intended to imply that although I might have been as 
far as I^ew-York, yet I wished it distinctl 7 understood 
that I did not belong to that free State, nor to any 

Goodin then turned to Clem, and then to Eliza and 


the chiMren, examining them severally, and asking 
varions questions. lie was pleased with Emily, as 
was every one who saw the child's sweet countenance. 
She was not its tidy as when I first beheld her; her 
hair was now somewhat disheveled ; but through its 
unkempt and soft profusion there still beamed a little 
face of most surpassing loveliness. " Altogether Tve 
were a fair lot — a devilish good lot," he said, enforc- 
ing that o])inion with more than one emphatic adjec- 
tive not found in the Cliristian vocabulary. Thereup- 
on we passed into tlie yard. Quite a number of 
slaves, as many as thirty I should say, were moving 
about, or sitting on benches under the shed. Tliey 
were all cleanly dressed — the men with hats, the wo- 
men with handkerchiefs tied about their heads. 

Uurch and Goodin, after separating from us, walk- 
ed up the steps at the back part of the main building, 
and sat down ujx.n the door sill. Tliey entered into 
conversation, Init tlie snl)ject of it I could not hear. 
Presently P>nrch came down into the yard, unfettered 
me, and led me into one of the small houses. 

"You tol.l tliat man you came from ]^ew- York," 
said he. 

1 replied, " I t..],l him I liad been up as far as Kew- 
York, to be sure, but did not tell him I belonged 
there, nor that I was a freeman. I meant no hann at 
all, Master Ihirch. I would not have said it had I 

^ lie looked at me a moment as if he was ready to 
cicvour m.., (]...„ turning round went out. In a few 


minutes lie returned. " If ever I hear you say a word 
about ]^ew-York, or about your freedom, I will be tlie 
death of you — I will kill you ; you may rely on 
that," he ejaculated fiercely. 

I doubt not he understood then better than I did 
the danger and the psnalty of selling a free into 
slavery. He felt the necessity of closing my mouth 
against the crime he knew he was committing. Of 
course, my life would not have weighed a feather, in 
any emergency requiring such a sacrifice. Undoubt- 
edly, he meant precisely what he said. 

Under the shed on one side of the yard, there was 
constructed a rough table, while overhead were sleep- 
ing lofts — the same as in the pen at Washington. Af- 
ter partaking at this table of our supper of pork and 
bread, I was hand-cufi*ed to a large yellow man, quite 
stout and fleshy, with a countenance expressive of 
the utmost melancholy. He was a man of intelli- 
gence and information. Chained together, it was not 
long before we became acquainted with each other's 
history. His name was Robert. Like myself, he 
had been born free, and had a wife and two chil- 
dren in Cincinnati. He said he had come south with 
two men, who had hired him in the city of his resi- 
dence. Without free papers, he had been seized at 
Fredericksburgh, placed in confinement, and beaten 
until he had learned, as I had, the necessity and the 
policy of silence. He had been in Goodin's pen 
about three weeks. To this man I became inucli 
attacjhed. We could sympathize with, and understand 


iixrh nthvT. It was with tears and a heavy heart, 
not iiKiiiv (lays subsequently, that I saw him die, and 
l.H.kcd lor the hist time upon his lifeless form! 

Kobert and myself, with Clem, Eliza and her chil- 
dren, slept that night npon our blankets, in one of the 
Miiall houses in the yard. There were four others, all 
iVoin the same plantation, who had been sold, and 
were now on their way south, who also occupied it 
with us. David and his wife, Caroline, both mulat- 
toes, were exceedingly affected. They dreaded the 
thought of being put into the cane and cotton fields ; 
but their greatest source of anxiety was the apprehen- 
sion of being separated. Mary, a tall, lithe girl, of a 
most jetty black, was listless and apparently indiffer- 
ent. Like many of the class, she scarcely knew there 
was such a word as freedom. Brought up in the ig- 
norance of a brute, she possessed but little more than 
a brute's intelligence. She was one of those, and 
there are very many, who fear nothing but their mas- 
ter's lash, and know no further duty than to obey his 
voice. TIic other was Lethe. She w^as of an entirely 
different cliaracter. She had long, straight hair, and 
bore more the appearance of an Indian than a negro 
Woman. She had sharp and spiteful eyes, and con- 
tinually gave utterance to the language of hatred 
and revenge. Tier husband had been sold. She 
knew not where she was. An exchange of masters, 
she wa.H sure, could not be for the worse. She cared 
not whither they might carry her. Pointing to the 
scars upon her face, tln^ desi)erate creature wished 



that she might see the day when she could wipe them 
off in some man's blood ! 

While we w^ere thus learning the history of each 
other's wretchedness, Eliza was seated in a corner by 
herself, singing hymns and praying for her children. 
Wearied from the loss of so much sleep, I could no 
longer bear up against the advances of that " sweet 
restorer," and laying down by the side of Eobert, on 
the floor, soon forgot my troubles, and slept until the 
dawn of day. 

In the morning, having swept the yard, and wash- 
ed ourselves, under Goodin's superintendence, we 
were ordered to roll up our blankets, and make ready 
for the continuance of our journey. Clem Kay was 
informed that he would go no further, Burch, for some 
cause, having concluded to carry him back to AVash- 
ingtom He was much rejoiced. Shaking hands, we 
parted in the slave pen at Eichmond, and I have not 
seen him since. But, much to my surprise, since my 
return, I learned that he had escaped from bondage, 
and on his way to the free soil of Canada, lodged one 
night at the house of my brother-in-law in Saratoga, 
informing my family of the place and the condition 
in which he left me. 

In the afternoon we were drawn up, two abreast, 
Kobert and myself in advance, and in this order, driv- 
en by Burch and Goodin from the yard, through the 
streets of Kichmond to the brig Orleans. She was 
a vessel of respectable size, full rigged, and freighted 
principally with tobacco. We were all on board by 


'ivo o'clock. Biirch bronglit us each a tin cnp and a 
jMX)n. There were forty of us in tlie brig, being all, 
• xcept Clem, tliat were in the pen. 

With a siiiull pocket knife that had not been taken 
from me, I began cutting the initials of my name 
upon the till cup. Tlie others immediately flocked 
:»uiul me, requesting me to mark theirs in a similar 
manner. In time, I gratified them all, of which they 
did not aj>pear to be forgetful. 

We were all stowed away in the hold at night, and 
tbe hatch barred down. We laid on boxes, or wdiere- 
cviT there was room enough to stretch our blankets 
on the floor. 

Burch accompanied us no flirther than Eichmond, 
returning from that point to the capital with Clem. 
Not until the la])se of almost twelve years, to w^t, in 
January bust, in the Washington police ofiice, did I 
set my eyes upon his face again. 

James II. Burch was a slave-trader — ^buying men, 
women and children at low prices, and selling them 
at an advance. He was a speculator in human flesh 
— adisrei)utable calling — and so considered at the 
Snutli. For the present he disappears from the scenes 
recorded in this narrative, but he will appear again 
befiire 1*9 close, not in the character of a man-whip- 
I»ing tyrant, Init as an arrested, cringing criminal in 
.'i <-'"irt of law, that failed to do himjustice. 







After we were all on board, the brig Orleans pro- 
ceeded down James River. Passing into Chesapeake 
Bay, we arrived next day opposite the city of Nor- 
folk. While lying at anchor, a lighter approached 
us from the town, bringing four more slaves, Frede- 
rick, a boy of eighteen, had been born a slave, as also 
had Henry, who was some years older. They had 
both been house servants in the city. Maria was a 
rather genteel looking colored girl, with a faultless 
form, but ignorant and extremely vain. Tlie idea of 
going to ISTew-Orleans was pleasing to her. She en- 
tertained an extravagantly high opinion of her own 
attractions. Assuming a haughty mien, she declared 
to her companions, that immediately on our arrival 
in New-Orleans, she had no doubt, some wealthy sin- 
gle gentleman of good taste would purchase her at 
once ! 



But the m«>st proiniiieiit of the four, was a man 
named Arthur. As the lighter approached, he strug- 
gled Btoutly with his keepers. It was with main 
force that he was dragged aboard the brig. He pro- 
te«*te<i, in a l«»ud voice, against the treatment he was 
receiving, and demanded to be released. His face 
wart ttwullcn, and covered with wounds and bruises, 
and, indeed, one side of it was a complete raw sore. 
lie was forced, with all haste, down the hatchway 
into the hold. I caught an outline of his story as he 
was borne struggling along, of which he afterwards 
gave me a more full relation, and it was as follows: 
He had long resided in the city of !N"orfolk, and was 
a free man. He had a family living there, and was a 
mason by trade. Having been unusually detained, 
he Wits returning late one night to his house in the 
suburbs of the city, when he was attacked by a gang 
of persons in an unfrequented street. He fought 
until his strength failed him. Overpowered at last, 
be was gagged and bound with ropes, and beaten, 
until he became insensible. For several days they 
Bi-creted him in the slave pen at Norfolk — a very 
common establishment, it appears, in the cities of the 
S.»uth. Tlie night before, he had been taken out and 
put on Ix.ard the lighter, which, pushing out from 
shore, had awaited our arrival. For some time he 
Cimtinued his i.rotestations, and was altogether irrec 
oncilable. At length, however, he became silent. 
He siink into a gloomy and thoughtful mood, and ap- 
peared to lie counseling with himself. There was in 


the man's determined face, something that suggested 
the thought of desperation. 

After leaving Norfolk the hand-cuffs were taken 
off, and during the day we were allowed to remain 
on deck. The captain selected Robert as his waiter, 
and I was appointed to superintend the cooking de- 
partment, and the distribution of food and water. I 
had three assistants, Jim, Cuffee and Jenny. Jenny's 
business was to prepare the coffee, which consisted of 
corn meal scorched in a kettle, boiled and sweetened 
with molasses. Jim and Cuffee baked the hoe-cake 
and boiled the bacon. 

Standing by a table, formed of a wide board rest- 
ing on the heads of the barrels, I cut and handed to 
each a slic-e of meat and a " dodger" of the bread, 
and from Jenny's kettle also dipped out for each a 
cup of the coffee. The use of plates was dispensed 
with, and their sable fingers took the place of knives 
and forks. Jim and Cuffee were very demure and 
attentive to business, somewhat inflated with their 
situation as second cooks, and without doubt feeling 
that there was a great responsibility resting on them. 
I was called steward — a name given me by the cap- 

The slaves were fed twice a day, at ten and five 
o'clock — always receiving the same kind and quantity 
of fare, and in the same manner as above described. 
At night we were driven into the hold, and securely 
fastened down. 

Scarcely were we out of sight of land before we 


were ovcrtalvcn by a violent storm. The brig rolled 
and plunged until we feared slie would go down. 
Some were sea-sick, others on tlieir knees praying, 
while some were fast holding to each other, paralyzed 
with fear. Tlie sea-sickness rendered the place of our 
confinement loathsome and disgusting. It would 
have been a happy thing for most of us — it would 
have saved the agony of many hundred lashes, and 
miserable deaths at last — had the compassionate sea 
snatched us that day from the clutches of remorseless 
men. The thought of Eandall and little Emmy sink- 
ing down among the monsters of the deep, is a more 
pleasant contemplation than to think of them as they 
are now, perhaps, dragging out lives of unrequited 

AVhen in sight of the Bahama Banks, at a place 
called Old Point Compass, or the Hole in the Wall, 
we were becalmed three days. There was scarcely a 
breath of air. The waters of the gulf presented a 
singularly white appearance, like lime water. 

In the order of events, I come now to the relation 
of an occurrence, which I never call to mind but with 
sensations of regret. I thank God, who has since 
permitted me to escape from the thralldom of slavery, 
that through his merciful interposition I was prevent- 
ed from imbruing my hands in the blood of his crea- 
tures. Let not those who have never been placed in 
like circumstances, judge me harshly. Until they 
have been chained and beaten — imtil they find them- 
selves in the situation I was, borne away from home 


and family towards a land of bondage — let tliem re- 
frain from saying what they would not do for liberty. 
How far I should have been justified in the sight of 
God and man, it is unnecessary now to speculate upon. 
It is enough to say that I am able to congratulate 
myself upon the harmless termination of an affaii 
which threatened, for a time, to be attended with se- 
rious results. 

Towards evening, on the first day of the calm, Ar- 
thur and myself were in the bow of the vessel, seat- 
ed on the windlass. We were conversing together of 
the probable destiny that awaited us, and mourning 
together over our misfortunes. Arthur said, and I 
agreed with him, that death was far less terrible than 
the living prospect that was before us. For a long 
time we talked of our children, our past lives, and of 
the probabilities of escape. Obtaining possession of 
the brig was suggested by one of us. We discussed 
the possibility of our being able, in such an event, to 
make our way to the harbor of ITew-York. I knew 
little of the compass ; but the idea of risking the ex- 
periment was eagerly entertained. The chances, foi 
and against us, in an encounter with the crew, was 
canvassed. Who could be relied upon, and who 
could not, the proper time and manner of the attack, 
were all talked over and over again. From the mo- 
ment the plot suggested itself I began to hope. I 
revolved it constantly in my mind. As difficulty af- 
ter difficulty arose, some ready conceit was at hand, 
demonstrating how it could be overcome. While 


otliers slept, Arthur and I were maturing our plans. 
At lengtli, with much caution, Robert was gradually 
made acquainted with our intentions. He approved 
of them at once, and entered into the conspiracy with 
a zealous spirit. There was not another slave we 
dared to trust. Brought up in fear and ignorance as 
they are, it can scarcely be conceived how servilely 
they will cringe before a white man's look. It was 
not safe to deposit so bold a secret with any of them, 
and finally we three resolved to take upon ourselves 
alone the fearful responsibility of the attempt. 

At night, as has been said, we were driven into the 
liold, and the hatch barred down. How to reach the 
deck was the first difficulty that presented itself. On 
the bow of the brig, however, I had observed the 
small boat lying bottom upwards. It occurred to me 
that by secreting ourselves underneath it, we would 
not be missed from the crowd, as they were hurried 
down into the hold at night. I was selected to make 
the experiment, in order to satisfy ourselves of its fea- 
sibility. Tlie next evening, accordingly, after supper, 
watching my opportunity, I hastily concealed myself 
beneath it. Lying close upon the deck, I could see 
what was going on around me, while wholly unper- 
ceived myself. In the morning, as they came up, I 
slipped from my hiding place without being observed. 
The result was entirely satisfactory. 

The captain and mate slept in the cabin of the for- 
mer. From Eobert, who had frequent occasion, in 
hia capacity of waiter, to make observations in that 


quarter, we ascertained tlie exact position of their 
respective berths. He furtlier informed iis that tliere 
were always two pistols and a cutlass Tying on the 
table. The crew's cook slept in the cook galley on 
deck, a sort of vehicle on wheels, that could be mov- 
ed about as convenience required, while the sailors, 
numbering only six, either slept in the forecastle, or 
in hammocks swung among the rigging. 

Finally our arrangements were all completed. Ar- 
thur and I were to steal silently to the captain's cab- 
in, seize the pistols and cutlass, and as quickly as possi- 
ble despatch him and the mate. Kobert, with a club, 
was to stand by the door leading from the deck down 
into the cabin, and, in case of necessity, beat back the 
sailors, until we could hurry to his assistance. We 
were to proceed then as circumstances might require. 
Should the attack be so sudden and successful as to 
prevent resistance, the hatch was to remain barred 
down ; otherwise the slaves were to be called up, and 
in the crowd, and hurry, and confusion of the time, 
we resolved to regain our liberty or lose our lives. I 
was then to assume the unaccustomed place of pilot, 
and, steering northward, we trusted that some lucky 
wind might bear us to the soil of freedom. 

The mate's name was Biddee, the captain's I can- 
not now recall, though I rarely ever forget a name 
once heard. The captain was a small, genteel man, 
erect and prompt, with a proud bearing, and looked 
the personification of courage. If he is still living, 
and these pages should chance to meet his eye, he 


will learn a fact connected with the voyage of the 
brig, fi'om Eichmond to New-Orleans, in IS^tl, not 
entered on his log-book. 

We were all prepared, and impatiently waiting an 
opportunity of putting our designs into execution, 
when they were frustrated by a sad and unforeseen 
event. Robert was taken ill. It was soon announced 
that he had the small-pox. He continued to grow 
worse, and four days j)revious to our arrival in New- 
Orleans he died. One of the sailors sewed him in his 
blanket, with a large stone from the ballast at his feet, 
and then laying him on a hatchway, and elevating it 
with tackles above the railing, the inanimate body of 
poor Robert was consigned to the white waters of the 

We were all panic-stricken by the appearance of 
the small-pox. The captain ordered lime to be scat- 
tered through the hold, and other prudent precau- 
tious to be taken. The death of Robert, however, and 
the p/esence of the malady, oppressed me sadly, and 
I gazed out over the great waste of waters with a 
spirit that was indeed disconsolate. 

An evening or two after Robert's burial, I was 
leaning on the hatchway near the forecastle, full of 
desponding thoughts, when a sailor in a kind voice 
asked me why I was so down-hearted. The tone and 
manner of the man assured me, and I answered, be- 
cause I was a freeman, and had been kidnapped. 
He remarked that it was enough to make any one 
dowii-liearted, and continued to interro<?ate me until 


he learned tlie particulars of my wliole history. He 
was evidently much interested in my behalf, and, in 
the blunt speech of a sailor, swore he would aid me 
all he could, if it " split his timbers." I requested 
him to furnish me p6n, ink and paper, in order that 1 
might write to some of my friends. He promised to 
obtain them — but how I could use them undiscover- 
ed was a difficulty. If I could only get into the fore- 
castle while his watch was off, and the other sailors 
asleep, the tiling could be accomplished. The small 
boat instantly occurred to me. He thought we were 
not far from the Balize, at the mouth of the Mississip- 
pi, and it was necessary that the letter be written 
soon, or the opportunity would be lost. Accordingly, 
by arrangement, I managed the next night to secret 
myself again under the long-boat. His watch was off 
at twelve. I saw him pass into the forecastle, and in 
about an hour followed him. He was^ nodding over 
a table, half asleep, on which a sickly light was flick- 
ering, and on which also was a pen and sheet of pa- 
per. As I entered he aroused, beckoned me to a seat 
beside him, and pointed to the paper. I directed the 
letter to Henry B. ]N"orthup, of Sandy Hill — stating 
that I had been kidnapped, was then on board the 
brig Orleans, bound for Kew-Orleans ; that it was 
then impossible for me to conjecture my ultimate des- 
tination, and requesting he would take measures to 
rescue me. The letter was sealed and directed, and 
Manning, having read it, promised to deposit it in tlie 
New-Orleans post-office. I hastened back to my place 


uii.liT ilie lon^M)(>at, and in the morning, as tlie slaves 
came up and were walking round, crept out unno- 
ticod and niinglc<l with tliem. 

My go«xl friend, wliose name was John Manning, 
was an Englishman ]>y birtli, and a noble-hearted 
generous sailor as ever walked a deck. He had lived 
in Boston — was a tall, well-bnilt man, about twenty- 
four years old, with a face somewhat pock-marked, 
hut full of benevolent expression. 

Nothing to vary the monotony of our daily life oc- 
curred, until we reached Xew-Orleans. On coming 
to the levee, and before the vessel was made fast, I 
saw Manning leap on shore and hurry away into the 
city. As he started off he looked back over his shoul- 
der signiticantly, giving me to understand the object 
of his errand. Presently he returned, and passing 
close by me, hunched me with his elbow, with a pe- 
culiar wink, as nmch as to say, "it is all right." 

'Hie letter, as I have since learned, reached Sandy 
Hill. Mr. Northup visited Albany and laid it before 
Goveni<»r Seward, but inasmuch as it gave no definite 
infonnation as to my probable locality, it was not, at 
that time, deemed advisable to institute measures for 
my liberation. It was concluded to delay, trusting 
that a knowledge of where I was might eventually be 

A happy and touching scene was witnessed imme- 
diately upon our reaching the levee. Just as Man- 
ninjr It-a the brig, on his way to the post-office, two 
men came up and called aloud tor Arthur. The lat- 

Arthur's rescue. 75 

ter, as he recognized tliem, was almost crazy with de- 
light. He could hariUy be restrained from leaping 
over the brig's side ; and when they met soon after, 
he grasped them by the hand, and clung to them a 
Jong, long time. They were men from Norfolk, who 
had come on to Kew-Orleans to rescue him. His 
kidnappers, they informed him, had been arrested, 
and were then confined in the IS'orfolk prison. Tliey 
conversed a few moments with the captain, and then 
departed with the rejoicing Arthur. 

But in all the crowd that thronged the wharf, there 
was no one who knew or cared for me. !Not one. 
No familiar voice greeted my ears, nor was there a 
single face that I had ever seen. Soon Arthur would 
rejoin his family, and have the satisfacl;ion of seeing 
his wrongs' avenged : my family, alas, should I ever 
see them more ? There was a feeling of utter desor 
lation in my heart, filling it with a despairing and re- 
gretful sense, that I had not gone down with Robert 
to the bottom of the sea. 

Yery soon traders and consignees came on board. 
One, a tall, thin-faced man, with light complexion 
and a little bent, made his appearance, with a papei 
in his hand. Burch's gang, consisting of myself, Eli- 
za and her children, Harry, Lethe, and some others, 
who had joined us at Kichmond, were consigned to 
him. This gentleman was Mr. Theophilus Freeman. 
Reading from his paper, he called, " Piatt." No one 
answered. Tlie name was called again and again, but 
still there was no reply. Then Lethe was called, then 


Eliza, then Ilarrj, until the list was finished, each 
one stepping forward as his or her name was called. 

"Captain, where's Piatt?" demanded Theophilus 

Tlie captain was nnable to inform him, no one be- 
ing on board answering to that name. 

"Who shii)ped that nigger?" he again inquired of 
the captain, pointing to me. 

" Burch," replied the captain. 

" Your name is Piatt — you answer my description. 
Wliy don't you come forward ?" he demanded of me, 
in an angry tone. 

I informed him that was not my name ; that I had 
never been called by it, but that I had no objection 
to it as I knew of. 

" AYell, I will learn you your name," said he ; " and 
so you won't forget it either, by ," he added. 

Mr. Tlieophilus Freeman, by the way, was not a 
whit behind his partner, Burch, in the matter of blas- 
phemy. On the vessel I had gone by the name of 
"Steward," and this was the first time I had ever 
been designated as Piatt — the name forwarded by 
Burch to his consignee. From the vessel I observ- 
ed the chain-gang at work on the levee. We passed 
near them as we were driven to Freeman's slave pen. 
This pen is very similar to Goodin's in Kichmond, ex- 
cept the yard was enclosed by plank, standing up- 
right, with ends sharpened, instead of brick walls. 

Including us, there were now at least fifty in this 
pen. Depositing our blankets in one of the smal^ 


bnildings in tlie yard, and having been called up and 
fed, we were allowed to saunter about tlie enclosure 
until night, when we wrapped our blankets round us 
and laid down under the shed, or in the loft, or in the 
open yard, just as each one preferred. 

It was but a short time I closed ray eyes that night. 
Thought was busy in my brain. Could it be possible 
that I was thousands of miles from home — that I had 
been di'iven through the streets like a dumb beast — 
that I had been chained and beaten without mercy — 
that I was even then herded with a drove of slaves, a 
slave myself? Were the events of the last few weeks 
realities indeed ? — or was I passing only through the 
dismal phases of a long, protracted dream ? It was 
no illusion. My cup of sorrow was full to overflow- 
ing. Then I lifted up my hands to God, and in the 
still watches of the night, surrounded by the sleeping 
forms of my companions, begged for mercy on the 
poor, forsaken captive. To the Almighty Father of 
us all — the freeman and the slave — I poured forth 
the supplications of a broken spirit, imploring strength 
from on high to bear up against the burden of my 
troubles, until the morning light aroused the slumber 
ers, ushering in another day of bond >ge. 


nucnf Air's ixpustiit — clkanliness and clothes — exercising in thb 





kretma.n's slave pen the purchaser of eliza, harry and platt 

— Eliza's agont on parting from little emily. 

Tup: very amiable, pious-hearted Mr. Tlieophilus 
PVccman, partner or consignee of James H. Burch, 
and keeper of tlie slave pen in Kew-Orleans, was out 
amonLT his animals early in the morning. "With an 
occasional kick of the older men and women, and 
mniiy a sliarp crack of the whip about the ears of the 
younger slaves, it was not long before they were all 
astir, and wide awake. Mr. Theophilus Freeman 
bustled about in a very industrious manner, getting 
Ills property ready for the sales-room, intending, no 
doubt, to do that day a rousing business. 

In tlie lirst place we were required to wash thorough- 
ly, and those with beards, to shave. We were then 
fimiislied with a new suit each, cheap, but clean. 
Tl.e men had hat, coat, shirt, pants and shoes ; the 
women frocks of calico, and handkerchiefs to bind 
about their heads. We were now conducted into a 
largo room in tlie front part of the buildin- to which 


the yard was attaclied, in order to be properly trained, 
before the admission of customers. The men were 
arranged on one side of the room, the women on the 
other. Tlie tallest was placed at the head of the row, 
then the next tallest, and so on in the order of their 
respective heights. Emily was at the foot of the 
line of women. Freeman charged us to remem- 
ber our places ; exhorted us to appear smart and live- 
ly^ — sometimes threatening, and again, holding out 
various inducements. During the day he exercised 
us in the art of " looking smart," and of moving to 
our places with exact precision. 

After being fed, in the afternoon, we were again 
paraded and made to dance. Bob, a colored boy, 
who had some time belonged to Freeman, played on 
the violin. Standing near him, I made bold to in- 
quire if he could play the " Yirginia Eeel." He an- 
swered he could not, and asked me if I could play. 
Replying in the affirmative, he handed me the violin. 
I struck up a tune, and finished it. Freeman ordered 
me to continue playing, and seemed well pleased, 
telling Bob that I far excelled him— a remark that 
seemed to grieve my musical companion very much. 

Next day many customers called to examine Free- 
man's " new lot." The latter gentleman was very 
loquacious, dwelling at much length upon our several 
good points and qualities. He would make us hold 
up our heads, walk briskly back and forth, while cus- 
tomers would feel of our hands and arms and bodies, 
turn us about, ask us what we could do, make us open 


OUT months and show oiir teeth, precisely as a jockey 
exaiuines a liorse which he is about to barter for or 
purcliiuje. Suiiietinies a man or woman was taken 
liack to tlie small house in the yard, stripped, and in- 
spected more minutely. Scars upon a slave's back 
were considered evidence of a rebellious or unruly 
epirit, and luirt liis sale. 

One old trentleman, who said he wanted a coach- 
man, appeared to take a fancy to me. From his con- 
VLTftiitioii wiiii Freeman, I learned he was a resident in 
the city. I yary much desired tliat he would buy me, 
because I conceived it Avould not be difficult to make 
my escape from Kew-Orleans on some northern vessel. 
Freeman asked him fifteen hundred dollai-s for me. 
Tlie old gentleman insisted it was too much, as times 
were very hard. Freeman, however, declared that I 
was sound and healthy, of a good constitution, and 
intelligent. lie made it a point to enlarge upon my 
musical attainments. The old gentleman argued 
quite adroitly that there was nothing extraordinary 
about the nigger, and finally, to niy regret, went out, 
saying he would call again. During the day, how- 
ever, a number of sales were made. David and Car- 
oline were purchased together by a Katchez planter. 
Tliey left us, grinning broadly, and in the most happy 
state of mind, caused by the fact of their not being sep- 
arated. Lcthu was sold to a planter of Baton Kouge, 
her eyes flashing with anger as she was led away. 

Tlio same man also purchased Eandall. The little 
fellow was made to jump, and run across the floor, 


and perform many other feats, exhibiting his activity 
and condition. All the time the trade was ffoino: on, 
Eliza was crying alond, and wringing her hands. She 
besought the man not to bny him, unless he also 
bought herself and Emily. She promised, in that case, 
to be the most faithful slave that ever lived. The 
man answered that he could not afford it, and then 
Eliza burst into a paroxysm of grief, weeping plain- 
tively. Freeman turned round to her, savagely, with 
his whip in his uplifted hand, ordering her to stop her 
noise, or he would flog her. He w^ould not have such 
work — such snivelling; and unless she ceased that 
minute, he would take her to the yard and give her a 
hundred lashes. Yes, he would take the nonsense out 
of her pretty quick — if he didn't, might he be d — d. 
Eliza shrunk before him, and tried to wipe away hei 
tears, but it was all in vain. She wanted to be with 
her children, she said, the little time she had to live. 
AH the frowns and threats of Freeman, could not 
wholly silence the afflicted mother. She kept on beg- 
ging and beseeching them, most piteously, not to sep- 
arate the three. Over and over as^ain she told them 
how she loved her boy. A gi-eat many times she 
repeated her former promises — how very faithful and 
obedient she would be ; how hard she would labor 
day and night, to the last moment of her life, if he 
would only buy them all together. But it was of no 
avail ; the man could not afford it. The bargain was 
agreed upon, and Randall must go alone. Tlien Eli- 
za ran to him ; embraced him passionately ; kissed 

D* 6 

82 T^\^:LYE yeaks a slave. 

liiiK again and again; told him to remember her — 
all the while lier tears falling in the boy's face like rain. 
Freeman damned her, calling her a blubbering, 
bawb'ng wench, and ordered her to go to her place, 
and behave hei-self, and be somebody. He swore he 
wouldn't stand such stuff but a little longer. He 
won hi soon give her something to cry about, if she 
wiis not mighty careful, and that she might depend 

The planter ^rom Baton Rouge, with his new pur- 
chases, was ready to depart. 

" Don't cry, mama. I will be a good boy. Don't 
cry," said Randall, looking back, as they passed out 
of the door. 

What has become of the lad, God knows. It was 
a mournful scene indeed. I would have cried myself 
if I had dared. 

That night, nearly all who came in on the brig Or- 
leans, were taken ill. They complained of violent 
])ain in the head and back. Little Emily — a thing 
unusual with her— cried constantly. In the morn- 
ing a physician was called in, but was unable to de- 
tennine the nature of our complaint. While examin- 
ing me, and asking questions touching my symptoms, 
I gave it as my opinion that it was an attack of small- 
pox— mentioning the fact of Robert's death as the 
reason of my belief It might be so indeed, he thought, 
and he would send for the head physician of the hos- 
l'>tal. Shortly, tlie head physician came — a small, 
light-haiivd ,nan, whom they called Dr. Cari". He 

Blil^VLL-POX. 83 

pronounced it small-pox, whereupon there was much 
alarm throughout the yard. Soon after Dr. Carr left, 
Eliza, Emmy, Harry and myself were put into a hack 
and driven to the hospital — a large white marhle 
building, standing on the outskirts of the city. Har- 
ry and I were placed in a room in one of the upper 
stories. I became very sick. For three days I was 
entirely blind. While lying in this state one day, 
Bob came in, saying to Dr. Carr that Freeman had 
sent him over to inquire how we were getting on. 
Tell him, said the doctor, that Piatt is very bad, but 
that if he survives imtil nine o'clock, he may recover. 

I expected to die. Though there was little in the 
prospect before me worth living for, the near approacli 
of death appalled me. I thought I could have been 
resigned to yield up my life in the bosom of my family, 
but to expire in the midst of strangers, under such 
circumstances, was a bitter reflection. 

Tliere were a great number in the hospital, of both 
sexes, and of all ages. In the rear of the building 
coffins were manufactured. When one died, the bell 
tolled — a signal to the undertaker to come and bear 
away the body to the potter's field. Many times, each 
day and night, the tolling bell sent forth its melan- 
choly voice, announcing another death. But my time 
had not yet come. The crisis having passed, I began to 
revive, and at the end of two weeks and two days, 
returned with Harry to the pen, bearing upon my 
face the effects of the malady, which to this day con- 
tinues tn disfigure it. Eliza and Emily were als<« 


broun^lit ])ack next day in a hack, and again were we 
para^lod in tlie sales-room, for the inspection and ex- 
nuiiiiation of purchasers. I still indulged the hope 
that the old gentleman in search of a coachman would 
call again, as he had promised, and purchase me. In 
that event I felt an ahiding confidence that I wonld 
soon regain my liherty. Customer after customer 
onteri'd, but the old gentleman never made his ap- 

At length, one day, while we were in the yard, 
Freeman came out and ordered us to our places, in 
the great room. A gentleman was waiting for us as 
we entered, and inasmuch as he will be often men- 
tioned in the progress of this narrative, a description 
of his personal appearance, and my estimation of his 
character, at tii-st sight, may not be out of place. 

He was a nuiii above the ordinary height, some- 
what bent and stooping forward. He was a good- 
looking man, and appeared to have reached about the 
middle age of life. Tliere was nothing repulsive in 
ids j)re8ence ; but on the other hand, tliere was some- 
thing cheerful and attractive in his face, and in his 
tone of voice. Tlie finer elements were all kindly 
mingled in his breast, as any one could see. He 
moved about among us, asking many questions, as to 
wliat we could do, and what labor we had been ac- 
customed to ; if we thought we would like to live 
with him, and would be good boys if he would buy 
U8, and (»thir interrogatories of like character. 

After some further inspection, and conversation 


V A XI) HKR I,A:?T child. 

Eliza's flirting fkom e:milt. 85 

toucliing prices, lie finally offered Freeman one thou- 
sand dollars for me, nine hundred for Hany, and sev- 
en hundred for Eliza. Whether the small-pox had 
depreciated our value, or from what cause Freeman 
had concluded to fall five hundred dollars from the 
price I was before held at, I cannot say. At any rate, 
after a little shrewd reflection, he announced his ac- 
ceptance of the offer. 

As soon as Eliza heard it, she was in an agony 
again. By this time she had become haggard and 
hollow-eyed with sickness and with sorrow. It would 
be a relief if I could consistently pass over in silence 
the scene that now ensued. It recalls memories more 
mournful and affecting than any language can por- 
tray. I have seen mothers kissing for the last time 
the faces of their dead offspring ; I have seen them 
looking down into the grave, as the earth fell v/ith a 
dull sound upon their cofiins, liiding them from their 
eyes forever ; but never have I seen such an exhibi- 
tion of intense, unmeasured, and unbounded grief, aa 
when Eliza was parted from her child. She broke 
from her place in the line of women, and rushing down 
where Emily was standing, caught her in her arms. 
The child, sensible of some impending danger, instinct- 
ively fastened her hands around her mother's neck, 
and nestled her little head upon her bosom. Free- 
man sternly ordered her to be quiet, but she did not 
heed him. He caught her by the arm and pulled her 
rudely, but she only clung the closer to the child. 
Tlien, with a volley of great oaths, lie struck her such 


I heartless Mow, tluit she staggered backward, and 
wjis like to tall. Oli ! liow piteously then did shebe- 
Boei-h an<l beg and pray tliat they might not be sepa- 
rated. Why could they not be purchased together ? 
Wliy not let her have one of her dear children? 
'' Mercy, mercy, master ! " she cried, falling on her 
kiieo?. " Please, master, buy Emily. I can never 
Avork any if she is taken from me : I will die." 

Frci-man interfered again, but, disregarding him, 
she still i)lead most earnestly, telling how Randall had 
been taken from her — how she never would see him 
again, and now it was too bad — oh, God ! it was too 
bad, too cruel, to take her away from Emily — her 
pride — her only darling, that could not live, it was 
BO young, without its mother ! 

Finally, after much more of supplication, the pur- 
chaser of Eliza stepped forward, evidently affected, 
and said to Freeman he would buy Emily, and asked 
him what lier price was. 

'' What is her price f Buy her ?" w\as the respon- 
r-ive interrogatory of Theophilus Freeman. And in- 
stantly answering his own inquiry, he added, *' I won't 
sell her. She's not for sale. 

The man remarked he was not in need of one so 
young— that it would be of no profit to him, but 
since the mother was so fond of her, rather than see 
them 8e])arate(l, he would pay a reasonable price. 
Ihit to this liumane proposal Freeman was entirely 
<lcaf. He would not sell her then on any account 
whatever. TIhm-o were heaps and piles of money to 


be made of lier, lie said, when she was a few years 
older. There were men enough in ]^ew-Orleans who 
would give five thousand dollars for such an extra, 
handsome, fancy piece as Emily would be, rather than 
not get her. No, no, he woiud not sell her then. 
She was a beauty — a picture — a doll — one of the 
regular bloods — none of your thick-lipped, bullet- 
headed, cotton-picking niggers — if she was might he 
be d— d. 

When Eliza heard Freeman's determination not to 
part with Emily, she became absolutely frantic. 

" I wdll not go without her. They shall not take 
her from me," she fairly shrieked, her shrieks com- 
mingling with the loud and angry voice of Freeman, 
commanding her to be silent. 

Meantime Harry and myself had been to the yard 
and returned with our blankets, and were at the front 
door ready to leave. Our purchaser stood near us, 
gazing at Eliza with an expression indicative of re- 
gret at having bought her at the expense of so much 
sorrow. We waited some time, when, finally. Free- 
man, out of patience, tore Emily from her mother by 
main force, the two clinging to each other with all 
their might. 

" Don't leave me, mama — don't leave me," scream- 
ed the child, as its mother was pushed harshly for- 
ward ; " Don't leave me — come back, mama," she still 
cried, stretching forth her little arms imploringly. 
But she cried in vain. Out of the door and into the 
street we were quickly hurried. Still we coukl hear 


her calling to hoc mother, " Comeback — don't leave 
nie — comeback, mama," until lier infant voice grew 
faint and still more iaint, and gradually died away, 
as distance intervened, and finally waswliolly lost. 

ICliza never after saw or heard of Emily or Eandall. 
Day n«»r night, however, were they ever absent from 
her memory. In the cotton field, in the cabin, al- 
ways and everywhere, she was talking of them — often 
to them, as if they were actually present. Only 
when absorbed in that illusion, or asleep, did she ever 
have a moment's comfort afterwards. 

She was no common slave, as has been said. To a 
large share of natural intelligence which she possess- 
ed, was iulded a general knowledge and information 
on most snl )jects. She had enjoyed opportunities such 
as are atlnrded to very few of her oppressed class. 
Slie liad been lifted up into the regions of a higher 
life. Freedom — freedom for herself and for her off- 
-l-ring, for many years had been her cloud by day, 
her pillar of fire by night. In her pilgrimage through 
the wilderness of bondage, with eyes fixed upon that 
Iiope-inspiring beacon, she had at length ascended to 
- the tnp of Pisgah," and beheld " the land of prom- 
ise." In an unexpected mome;it she was utterly over- 
wlielmeil with disappointment and despair. The glo- 
rious vision of liberty fiided from her sight as they led 
her away into captivity. Kow " she weepeth sore in 
the night, and tears are on her cheeks : all her friends 
liave dealt treacherously with her: they have become 
hir enemies." 











On leaving the ]^ew-Orleans slave pen, Harry and 
I followed our new master through the streets, while 
Eliza, crying and turning back, was forced along by 
Freeman and his minions, until we found ourselves on 
board the steamboat Rodolph, then lying at the levee. 
In the course of half an hour we were moving briskly 
up the Mississippi, bound for some point on Red Riv- 
er. There were quite a number of slaves on board 
beside ourselves, just purchased in the ]^ew-Orleans 
market. I remember a Mr. Kelsow, who was said to 
be a well known and extensive planter, had in charge 
a gang of women. 

Our master's name was William Ford. He resided 
then in the "Great Pine Woods," in the parish of 
Avoyelles, situated on the right bank of Red River, 


in I lie heart of Louisiana. He is now a Baptist 

1 .ivaclier. Tliroiigliout the whole parish of Avoyelles, 
and especially along both shores of Bayou Bceuf, 
where he is more intimately known, he is accounted 
by liis fellow-citizens as a worthy minister of God. 
In many northern minds, perhaps, the idea of a man 
holdinjr his brother man in servitude, and the traffic 
in human flesh, may seem altogether incompatible 
with their conceptions of a moral or religious life. 
From descriptions of such men as Burch and Freeman, 
and others hereinafter mentioned, they are led to de- 
Fjdse and execrate the whole class of slaveholders, in- 
discriminately. But I was sometime his slave, and 
had an opportunity of learning well his character and 
disposition, and it is but simple justice to him when 1 
say, in my opinion, there never was a more kind, no- 
ble, candid. Christian man than William Ford. The 
influences and associations that had always surround- 
ed him, blinded him to the inherent wrong at the bot- 
tom of the system of Slavery. He never doubted the 
mural right of one man holding another in subjection. 
Looking through the same medium with his fathers 
1 >efore him, he saw things in the same light. Brought 
up under other circumstances and other influences, 
his notions would undoubtedly have been different 
Nevertheless, he was a model master, walking up- 
rightly, according to the light of his understanding, 
and fortunate was the slave who came to his posses- 
Hion. Were all men such as he, Slavery would be de- 
]t;v<m] of more than half its bitterness. 


"We were two days and three niglits on board tlie 
bfceamboat Rodolpli, during wliicli time nothing of 
particular interest occurred. I was now known as 
Piatt, the name given me by Burch, and by which I 
was designated through the whole period of my ser- 
vitude. Eliza was sold by the name of " Dradey." 
She was so distinguished in the conveyance to Ford, 
now on record in the recorder's office in New-Or- 

On our passage I was constantly reflecting on my sit- 
uation, and consulting with myself on the best course 
to pursue in order to effect my ultimate escape. 
Sometimes, not only then, but afterwards, I was al- 
most on the point of disclosing fully to Ford the facts 
of my history. I am inclined now to the opinion it 
would have resulted in my benefit. This course was 
often considered, but through fear of its miscarriage, 
never put into execution, until eventually my transfer 
and his pecuniary embarrassments rendered it evi- 
dently unsafe. Afterwards, under other masters, un 
like William Ford, I knew well enough the slightest 
knowledge of my real character would consign me at 
once to the remoter depths of Slavery. I was too 
costly a chattel to be lost, and was well aware that I 
would be taken farther on, into some by-place, over 
the Texan border, perhaps, and sold ; that I would be 
disposed of as the thief disposes of his stolen horse, if 
my right to freedom was even whispered. So I re- 
solved to lock the secret closely in my heart — never 
fo utter one word or syllable as to who or what I was 


trustiiif]: in rrovidence and my own shrewdness foi 


At lenn^li we left tlie steamboat Eodolpli at a place 
called Alexandria, several hundred miles from ISTew- 
Orloans. It is a small town on the southern shore 
M' Ked Itiver. Having remained there over night, 
we entered the morning train of cars, and were soon 
It Bayou Lamonrie, a still smaller place, distant 
eighteen miles from Alexandria. At that time it was 
;he termination of the railroad. Ford's plantation 
wiw situated on the Texas road, twelve miles from 
LamtMirie, in the Great Pine Woods. Tliis distance, it 
was aiinrtunced to us, must be traveled on foot, there 
being ]»ul)lic conveyances no farther. Accordingly 
we all set out in the company of Ford. It was an ex- 
cessively hot day. Harry, Eliza, and myself were yet 
weak, and tlie bottoms of our feet were very tender 
from the effects of the small-pox. We proceeded 
slowly, F(»rd telling us to take our time and sit down 
and rest whenever we desired — a privilege that was 
takiii advantage of quite frequently. After leaving 
Lain.Mirie and crossing two plantations, one belong- 
ing to ^[r. Caniell, the other to a Mr. Flint, we reach- 
ed the Pine Woods, a wilderness that stretches to the 
Sabine River. 

llie wlu^le country about Red Kiver is low and 
nuirshy. The Pine Woods, as they are called, is com- 
I»aratively uplan.l, with frequent small intervals, how- 
fvor, running through them. This upland is covered 
With n.n.KTous trees-the white oak, the chincopin, 


resembling chestnut, but principally the yellow pine. 
They are of great size, running up sixty feet, and per- 
fectly straight. The woods were full of cattle, very 
shy and wild, dashing away in herds, with a loud 
snuff, at our approach. Some of them were marked 
or branded, the rest appeared to be in their wild and 
untamed state. They are much smaller than northern 
breeds, and the peculiarity about them that most at- 
tracted my attention was their horns. They stand 
out from the sides of the head precisely straight, like 
two iron spikes. 

At noon we reached a cleared piece of ground con- 
taining three or four acres. Upon it was a small, un- 
painted, w^ooden house, a corn crib, or, as we would 
say, a barn, and a log kitchen, standing about a rod 
from the house. It was the summer residence of Mr. 
Martin. Eich planters, having large establishments 
on Bayou Boeuf, are accustomed to spend the warmer 
season in these woods. Here they find clear water 
and delightful shades. In fact, these retreats are to 
the planters of that section of the country what New- 
port and Saratoga are to the wealthier inhabitants of 
northern cities. 

We were sent around into the kitchen, and supplied 
with sweet potatoes, corn-bread, and bacon, while 
Master Ford dined with Martin in the house. There 
were several slaves about the premises. Martin came 
out and took a look at us, asking Ford the price of 
each, if we were green hands, and so forth, and making 
inquiries in relation to the slave market generally 


Arter a l«»n^' rest we set forth again, following tlte 
Texius road, which liad the appearance of being very 
nirely traveled. For five miles we passed through 
continuous woods without observing a single habita- 
tion. At length, just as the sun was sinking in the 
wej^t, we entered another opening, containing some 
twelve or fifteen acres. 

In this opening stood a house much larger than Mr 
Martin's. It was two stories high, with a piazza in 
front. In the rear of it was also a log kitchen, poul- 
try liouse, comcribs, and several negro cabins. 'Near 
the house was a peach orchard, and gardens of orange 
and pomegranate trees. The space was entirely sur- 
rounded by woods, and covered with a carpet of rich, 
rank verdure. It was a quiet, lonely, pleasant place 
— literally a green spot in the w^ilderness. It was the 
residence of my master, William Ford. 

Ah we approached, a yellow girl — her name was 
Pwose — was standing on the piazza. Going to the 
door, she called her mistress, who presently came run- 
ning out to meet her lord. She kissed him, and 
huighingly demanded if he had bought "those nig- 
gers." Ford said he had, and told us to go round to 
Sally's cabin and rest ourselves. Turning the comer 
of tlie liouse, we discovered Sally washing — her two 
haby chihlron near her, rolling on the grass. They 
jumped up and toddled towards us, looked at us a 
moment like a brace of ral)bits, then ran back to their 
mother as if afraid ..t' us. 

Sally conducted us into the cabin, told us to lay down 


our bundles and be seated, for slie was sure that we were 
tired. Jnst then John, the cook, a boy some sixteen 
years of age, and blacker than any crow, came run- 
ning in, looked steadily in our faces, then turning 
round, without saying as much as "how d'ye do," 
ran back to the kitchen, laughing loudly, as if our 
coming was a great joke indeed. 

Much wearied with our walk, as soon as it was 
dark, Harry and I wrapped our blankets round us, 
and laid down upon the cabin floor. My thoughts, 
as usual, wandered back to my wife and children. 
The consciousness of my real situation ; the hopeless- 
ness of any effort to escape through the wide forests 
of Avoyelles, pressed heavily upon me, yet my heart 
was at home in Saratoga. 

I was awakened early in the morning by tlie voice 
of Master Ford, calling Rose. She hastened into the 
house to dress the children, Sally to the field to milk 
the cows, while John was busy in the kitchen prepar- 
ing breakfast. In the meantime Harry and I were 
strolling about the yard, looking at our new quarters. 
Just after breakfast a colored man, driving three yoke 
of oxen, attached to a wagon load of lumber, drove 
into the opening. He was a slave of Ford's, named 
"Walton, the husband of Rose. By the way, Rose was 
a native of Washington, and had been brought from 
thence five years before. She had never seen Eliza^ 
but she had heard of Berry, and they knew the same 
streets, and the same people, either personally, or by 
reputation. They became fast friends immediately. 


and talked a great deal together of old times, and of 
friends tliey had left behind. 

Ford was at that time a wealthy man. Besides his 
seat in the Pine Woods, he owned a large kimbering 
establishment on Indian Creek, four miles distant, and 
also, in his wife's right, an extensive plantation and 
many slaves on Bayou Boeuf 

Walton had come with his load of lumber from the 
mills on Indian Creek. Ford directed us to return 
with him, saying he would follow us as soon as possible. 
Before leaving, Mistress Ford called me into the store- 
room, and handed me, as it is there termed, a tin 
bucket of molasses for Harry and myself. 

Eliza was still ringing her hands and deploring the 
loss of her children. Ford tried as much as possible 
to console her — told her she need not work very hard ; 
that she might remain with Rose, and assist the mad- 
am in the house affairs. 

Riding with Walton in the wagon, Harry and I be- 
came quite well acquainted with him long before 
reaching Indian Creek. He was a " born thrall " of 
Ford's, and spoke kindly and affectionately of him, as 
a child would speak of his own father. In answer to 
his inquiries from whence I came, I told him from 
Washington. Of that city, he had heard much from 
his wife. Rose, and all the way plied me with many 
extravagant and absurd questions. 

On reaching the mills at Indian Creek, we found 
two more of Ford's slaves, Sam and Antony. Sam, 
also, was a Washingtonian, having been brought out 


in tlie same gang Y^ith. Rose. He had worked on a 
farm near Georgetown. Antony was a blacksmith, 
from Kentucky, who had been in his present master's 
service about ten years. Sam knew Burch, and when 
informed that he was the trader who had sent me on 
from Washington, it was remarkable how well we 
agreed upon the subject of his superlative rascality. 
He had forwarded Sam, also. 

On Ford's arrival at the mill, we were employed in 
piling lumber, and choj^ping logs, which occupation 
we continued during the remainder of the summer. 

We usually spent our Sabbaths at the opening, on 
which days our master would gather all his slaves 
about him, and read and expound the Scriptures. 
Se sought to inculcate in our minds feelings of kind- 
ness towards each other, of dependence upon God — ■ 
setting forth the rewards promised unto those who 
lead an upright and prayerful life. Seated in the 
doorway of his house, surrounded by his man-ser- 
vants and his maid-servants, who looked earnestly into 
the good man's face, he spoke of the loving kindness 
of the Creator, and of the life that is to come. Often 
did the voice of prayer ascend from his lips to heaven, 
the only sound that broke the solitude of the place. 

In the course of the summer Sam became deeply 
convicted, his mind dwelling intensely on the subject 
of religion. His mistress gave him a Bible, which 
he carried with him to his work. Whatever leism'e 
time was allowed him, he spent in perusing it, though 
it was only with great difficulty that he could master 


any part of it. I often read to liim, a favor wliiolihe 
well re])aicl me oy many expressions of gratitude. 
Sam's piety was frequently observed by white men 
who came to the mill, and the remark it most gener- 
ally provoked was, that a man like Ford, Avho allowed 
his slaves to have Bibles, was " not fit to own a nigger." 

He, however, lost nothing by his kindness. It is 
a fact I have more than once observed, that those who 
treated their slaves most leniently, were rewarded by 
the greatest amount of labor. I know it from my 
own exi^erience. It was a source of pleasure to sur- 
prise Master Ford with a greater day's work than was 
required, while, under subsequent masters, there was 
no prompter to extra effort but the overseer's lash. 

It was the desire of Ford's approving voice that 
suggested to me an idea that resulted to his profit. 
The lumber we were manufacturing was contracted 
to be delivered at Lamourie. It had hitherto been 
transported by land, and was an important item of 
expense. Indian Creek, upon which the mills were 
situated, was a narrow but deep stream emptying into 
Bayou Boeuf. In some places it was not more than 
twelve feet wide, and much obstructed with trunks of 
trees. Bayou Boeuf was connected with Bayou Lamou 
rie. I ascertained the distance from the mills to the 
point on the latter bayou, where our lumber was to be 
delivered, was but a few miles less by land than by 
water. Provided the creek could be made navigable 
foi- rafts, it occurred to me that the expense of trans- 
]i<»rtation would be materially diminished. 


Adam Tay dem, a little white man, who had been a 
soldier in Florida, and had strolled into that distant 
region, was foreman and superintendent of the mills. 
He scouted the idea ; but Ford, when I laid it before 
him, received it favorably^ and permitted me to try 
the experiment. 

Having removed the obstructions, I made up a nar- 
row raft, consisting of twelve cribs. At this business 
I think I was quite skillful, not having forgotten my 
experience years before on the Champlain canal. I 
labored hard, being extremely anxious to succeed, 
both from a desire to please my master, and to show 
Adam Taydem that my scheme was not such a vis- 
ionary one as he incessantly pronounced it. One 
hand could manage three cribs. I took charge of the 
forward three, and commenced poling down the 
creek. In due time we entered the first bayou, and 
finally reached our destination in a shorter period 
of time than I had anticipated. 

The arrival of the raft at Lamourie created a sen- 
sation, while Mr. Ford loaded me with commenda- 
tions. On all sides I heard Ford's Piatt pronounced 
the " smartest nigger in the Pine Woods" — in fact 
I was the Fulton of Indian Creek. I was not insen- 
sible to the praise bestowed upon me, and enjoyed, 
especially, my triumph over Taydem, whose half- 
malicious ridicule had stung my pride. From this 
time the entire control of bringing the lumber to 
Lamourie was placed in my hands until the contract 
was fulfilled. 


Indian Creek, in its wliole length, flows tlirough a 
riiagnificent forest. Tliere dwells on its sliore a tribe 
of In«liiins, a remnant of the Chickasaws or Cliick- 
opees, if I remember riglitlj. They live in simple 
liiit^, ten or twelve feet square, constructed of pine 
poles and covered with bark. Tliej subsist princi- 
pally on the flesli of the deer, the coon, and opos- 
sum, all of which are plenty in these woods. Some- 
times they exchange venison for a little corn and 
whisky with the planters on the bayous. Their 
usual dress is buckskin breeches and calico hunting 
shirts of fantastic coloi-s, buttoned from belt to chin. 
Ti\cy wear brass rings on their wrists, and in their 
ears and noses. Tlie dress of the squaws is very 
similar. Tliey are fond of dogs and horses — owning 
many of the latter, of a small, tough breed — and 
ore skillful riders. Tlieir bridles, girths and saddles 
were made of raw skins of animals ; their stirrups 
of a certain kind of wood. Mounted astride their 
ponies, men and women, I have seen them dash out 
into the woods at the utmost of their speed, following 
narrow winding paths, and dodging trees, in a man- 
ner that eclipsed the most miraculous feats of civil- 
ized C(iue8trianism. Circling away in various direc- 
tions, the forest echoing and re-echoing with their 
wlioops, they would presently return at the same 
da.shing, headlong speed with which they started. 
Thoir village was on Indian Creek, known as Indiap 
(4istle, but their range extended to the Sabine Kiver. 
Uccitsiunally a tribe from Texas would come over on 


a visit, and then there was indeed a carnival in the 
" Great Pine Woods." Chief of the tribe was Cas- 
calla ; second in rank, John Baltese, his son-in-law ; 
with both of whom, as with many others of the tribe, 
I became acquainted during my frequent voyages 
down the creek with rafts. Sam and myself would 
often visit them when the day's task was done. They 
were obedient to the chief; the word of Cascalla 
was their law. They were a rude but harmless peo- 
ple, and enjoyed their wild mode of life. They had 
little fancy for the open country, the cleared lands 
on the shores of the bayous, but preferred to hide 
themselves within the shadows of the forest. They 
worshiped the Great Spirit, loved whisky, and were 

On one occasion I was present at a dance, when 
a roving herd from Texas had encamped in their 
village. The entire carcass of a deer was roasting 
before a large fire, which threw its light a long dis- 
tance among the trees under which they were assem- 
bled. When they had formed in a ring, men and 
squaws alternately, a sort of Indian fiddle set up an 
indescribable tune. It was a continuous, melancholy 
kind of wavy sound, with the slightest possible vari- 
ation. At the first note, if indeed there was more 
than one note in the whole tune, they circled around, 
trotting after each other, and giving utterance to a 
guttural, sing-song noise, equally as nondescript as the 
music of the fiddle. At the end of the third circuit, 
they would stop suddenly, whoop as if their lungj* 


wouM crack, tlien break from tlie ring, forming in 
cuu]»le!j, mail and s(|uaw, each jmnping backwards as 
far 118 possible fr«,»m tlie other, then forwards — which 
gruceful feat having been twice or thrice accomplish- 
ed, tliey would form in a ring, and go trotting round 
again. The best dancer appeared to be considered 
the one who could whoop the loudest, jump the far- 
tliest, and utter the most excruciating noise. At in- 
tervals, one or more would leave the dancing circle, 
and going to the fire, cut from the roasting carcass a 
slice of venison. 

In a hole, shai)ed like a mortar, cut in the trunk 
of a fallen tree, they pounded com with a wooden 
pestle, and of the meal made cake. Alternately they 
dancc<l and ate. Thus were the visitors from Texas 
entertained by the dusky sons and daughters of the 
Chicopees, and such is a description, as I saw it, of 
an Indian ball in the Pine Woods of Avoyelles. 

In the autumn, I left the mills, and was employed 
at the opening. One day the mistress was urging 
Ford to procure a loom, in order that Sally might 
conirnence weaving cloth for the winter garments of 
the slaves, lie could not imagine where one was to 
be found, when I suggested that the easiest way to 
get one would be to make it, informing him at the 
same time, that I was a sort of "Jack at all trades," 
and would attempt it, with his permission. It was 
granted very readily, and I was allowed to go to a 
noighborin^r planter's to inspect one before commen- 
cins' the 'in lertaking. At length it was finished 


and pronounced by Sally to be perfect. She could 
easily weave her task of fourteen yards, milk the 
cows, and have leisure time besides each day. It 
worked so well, I was continued in the employment 
of making looms, which were taken down to the 
plantation on the bayou. 

At this time one John M. Tibeats a carpenter, came 
to the opening to do some work on master's house. 
I was directed to quit the looms and assist him. For 
two weeks I was in his company, planing and match- 
ing boards for ceiling, a plastered room being a rare 
thing in the parish of Avoyelles. 

John M. Tibeats was the opposite of Ford in all 
respects. He was a small, crabbed, quick-tempered, 
spiteful man. He had no fixed residence that I ever 
heard of, but passed from one plantation to another, 
wherever he could find employment. He was with- 
out standing in the community, not esteemed by 
white men, nor even respected by slaves. He was 
ignorant, withal, and of a revengeful disposition. He 
left the parish long before I did, and I know not 
whether he is at present alive or dead. Certain it is, 
it was a most unlucky day for me that brought us 
together. During my residence with Master Ford I 
had seen only the bright side of slavery. His was 
no heavy hand crushing us to the earth. He pointed 
upwards, and with benign and cheering words ad- 
dressed us as his fellow-mortals, accountable, like 
himself, to the Maimer of us all. I think of him with 
affecti(m, and had my family been with me, could 


have borne his gentle servitude, without murmuring, 
all my days. But clouds were gathering in the hori- 
zon — forerunners of a pitiless storm that was soon 
to ])reak over me. I was doomed to endure such bit- 
ter trials as the poor slave only knows, and to lead 
no more the comparatively happy life which I had 
led in the " Great Pine Woods." 








William Ford unfortunately became embarrassed 
in bis pecuniary affairs. A beavy judgment was ren- 
dered against bim in consequence of bis baving be- 
come security for bis brotber, Franklin Ford, residing 
on Eed Eiver, above Alexandria, and wbo bad failed 
to meet bis liabilities. He was also indebted to Jobn 
M. Tibeats to a considerable amount in consideration 
of bis services in building tbe mills on Indian Creek, 
and also a weaving-bouse, corn-mill and otber erec- 
tions on tbe plantation at Bayou Boeuf, not yet com- 
pleted. It was tberefore necessary, in order to meet 
tbese demands, to dispose of eigbteen slaves, myself 
among tbe number. Seventeen of tbem, including 
Sam and Harry, were purcbased by Peter Compton, 
a planter also residing on Red River. 

\0S T\\'KL\'E YE.\RS A SLAVE. 

I was sold to Tibeats, in consequence, undoubtedly, 
of wy slight skill as a carpenter. Tliis was in the 
winter of 1842. Tlie deed of myself from Freeman 
to Ford, as I ascertained from the public records in 
New-Orleans on my return, was dated Jime 23d, 
1^41. At the time of my sale to Tibeats, the price 
ni^^recd to be given for me being more than the debt, 
Ford took a chattel mortgage of four hundred dollars. 
I nin in«lebted for my life, as will hereafter be seen, 
to that mortofacre. 

I bade farewell to my good friends at the opening, 
and departed with my new master Tibeats. We 
went down to the |)lautation on Bayou Bfjeuf, distant 
twi'iity-sc'von miles from the Pine AVoods, to complete 
the niifiinshed conti-act. Bayou Boeuf is a sluggish, 
winding stream — one of those stagnant bodies of 
water common in that region, setting back from Bed 
lliver. It stretches from a point not far from Alex- 
andria, in a soiitli-easterly direction, and following its 
tnrtuons course, is more than fifty miles in length. 
Large eott<)n and sngar plantations line each shore, 
e.\ten<ling back to the borders of interminable 
swamps. It is alive with aligators, rendering it un- 
safe for swino, or unthinking slave children to stroll 
ali»nn: its banks. Upon a bend in this bayou, a short 
distance from Cheneyville, was situated the plantation 
of Madam F(.rd — her brother, Peter Tanner, a great 
landhoMcr, living on the o})posite side. 

On my arrival at T.ayou Bo3uf, I had the pleasure 
of meeting Kli/.a, wli..m T had not seen for several 


months. She had not pleased Mrs. Ford, being more 

occupied in brooding over her sorrows than in attend- 
ing to her business, and had, in consequence, been sent 
down to work in the field on the plantation. She had 
grown fee Me and emaciated, and was still mourning 
for her children. She asked me if I had forgotten 
them, and a great many times inquired if I still re- 
membered how handsome little Emily was — how 
much Randall loved her — and wondered if they were 
living still, and where the darlings could then be. 
She had sunk beneath the weight of an excessive grief. 
Her drooping form and hollow cheeks too plainly indi- 
cated that she had well nigh reached the end of her 
weary road. 

Ford's overseer on this plantation, and who had the 
exclusive charge of it, was a Mr. Chapin, a kindly-dis- 
posed man, and a native of Pennsylvania. In com- 
mon with others, he held Tibeats in light estimation, 
which fact, in connection with the four hundred dol- 
lar mortgage, was fortunate for me. 

I was now compelled to labor very hard. From 
earliest dawn until late at night, I was not allowed to 
be a moment idle. Notwithstanding which, Tibeats 
was never satisfied. He was continually cursing and 
complaining. He never spoke to me a kind word. [ 
was his faithful slave, and earned him large wages 
every day, and yet I went to my cabin nightly, loaded 
with abuse and stinging epithets. 

We had completed the com mill, tlie kitchen, an:l 
BO forth, and were at work upon the weaving-house, 

i08 TWKLvn: yrahs a slate. 

when I was guilty of an act, in that State punishable 
with death. It was my first fight withTibeats. Tlie 
weaving-honse we were erecting stood in the orchard 
a few rods from the residence of Chapin, or the " great 
liouse," as it was called. One night, having worked 
until it was too dark to see, I was ordered by Tibeat 
to rise very early in the morning, procure a keg o 
nails from Chapin, and commence putting on the 
claj)hoard.s. I retired to the cabin extremely tired, 
and liaving cooked a supper of bacon and corn cake, 
and conversed a while with Eliza, who occupied the 
same cabin, as also did Lawson and his wife Mary, 
and a slave named Bristol, laid down upon the ground 
floor, little dreaming of the sufferings that awaited me 
on the morrow. Before daylight I was on the j)iazza 
of the " great house," awaiting the appearance of over^ 
seer Chapin. To have aroused him from his slumbers 
and stated my errand, would have been an unpardon- 
able boldness. At length he came out. Taking off 
my hat, I informed him Master Tibeats had directed 
me to call upon him for a keg of nails. Going into 
the store-room, he rolled it out, at the same time say- 
ing, if Tibeats preferred a different size, he would en- 
deavor to furnish them, but that I might use those 
until further directed. Tlien mounting his horse, 
which stood saddled and bridled at the door, he rode 
away into the field, whither the slaves had preceded 
him, while I took the keg on my shoulder, and pro- 
ceeding to the weaving-house, broke in the head, and 
eonimei ced nmVnv^ on the clapboards. 


As the day began to open, Tibeats came out of the 
house to where I was, hard at work. He seemed to 
be that morning even more morose and disagreeable 
than usual. He was mj master, entitled bj law to 
my flesh and blood, and to exercise over me such ty 
rannical control as his mean nature promj^ted ; bu 
there was no law that could prevent my looking upon 
him with intense contempt. I despised both his dis- 
position and his intellect. I had just come round to 
the keg for a further supply of nails, as he reached 
the weaving-house. 

"I thought I told you to commence putting on 
weather-boards this morning," he remarked. 

" Yes, master, and I am about it," I replied. 

" Where ? " he demanded. 

" On the other side," was my answer. 

He walked round to the other side, examined my 
work for a while, muttering to himself in a fault-find- 
ing tone. 

" Didn't I tell you last night to get a keg of nails 
of Chapin ? " he broke forth again. 

" Yes, master, and so I did ; and overseer said he 
would get another size for you, if you wanted them, 
when he came back from the field." 

Tibeats walked to the keg, looked a moment at the 
contents, then kicked it violently. Coming towards 
me in a great passion, he exclaimed, 

" G — 'd d — n you ! I thought you Icnowed some- 

I made answer : " I tried to do as you told me. 


ma«*ter. I ditln't moan anything wrong. Overseer 
pjii,| — " l]nt lie interrupted me with such a flood ol 
curses that I was unable to finish the sentence. At 
length lie ran towards the house, and going to the 
piazza, took down one of the overseer's whips. The 
whij» ha<l a short wooden stock, braided over with 
leather, and was loaded at the butt. The lash was 
three feet long, or thereabouts, and made of raw-hide 

At first I was somewliat frightened, and my impulse 
was to run. There was no one about excej)t Rachel, 
the cook, and Chapin's wife, and neither of them were 
to be seen. Tlie rest were in the field. I knew he 
intended to wliip me, and it was the first time any 
one had attempted it since my arrival at Avoyelles. 
I felt, moreover, that I had been faithful — that I was 
guilty of no wrong whatever, and deserved commenda- 
tion rather than punishment. My fear changed to 
anger, and before he reached me I had made up my 
mind fully not to be whipped, let the result be life or 

AVinding the lash around his hand, and taking hold 
.-•f the small end of the stock, he walked up to me, 
und with a malignant look, ordered me to strip. 

" Master Tibeats, said I, looking him boldly in the 
face, " I will iinty I was about to say something 
fiirther in justilication, but with concentrated ven 
,-eanee, he sprang upon me, seizing me by the throat 
with one hand, raising the whip with the other, in the 
net .»f striking. P,ofore the blow descended, however. 


I liad caught him by the collar of the coat, and drawn 
hmi closely to me. Keacliing down, I seized him by 
the ankle, and pushing him back with the other hand, 
he fell over on the ground. Putting one arm around 
his leg, and holding it to my breast, so that his head 
and shoulders only touched the ground, I placed my 
foot upon his neck. He was completely in my power. 
My blood was up. It seemed to course through my 
veins like fire. In the frenzy of my madness I snatched 
the whip from his hand. He struggled with all his 
power ; swore that I should not live to see another 
day ; and that he would tear out my heart. But his 
struggles and his threats were alike in vain. I cannot 
tell how many times I struck him. Blow after blow 
fell fast and heavy upon his wriggling form. At 
length he screamed — cried murder — and at last the 
blasphemous tyrant called on God for mercy. But 
he who had never shown mercy did not receive it. 
The stiff stock of the whip warped round his cringing 
body until my right arm ached. 

Until this time I had been too busy to look about 
me. Desisting for a moment, I saw Mrs. Chapin 
looking from the window, and Kachel standing in the 
kitchen door. Their attitudes expressed the utmost 
excitement and alarm. His screams had been heard 
in the field. Chapin was coming as fast as he could 
ride. I struck him a blow or two more, then pushed 
him from me with such a well-directed kick that he 
went rolling over on the ground. 

Eising to his feet, and brushing the dirt from his 


hair, ho stood looking at me, pale with rage. We 
gazed at each other in silence. IN'ot a word was ut- 
tered until Chupin galloped up to us. 

" Wiiat is the matter ?" he cried out. 

" Master Ti beats wants to whip me for using the 
nails vou gave me," I replied. 

" What is the matter with the nails ?" he inquired, 
turning to Tibeats. 

Til)eats answered to the effect that they were too 
large, paying little heed, however, to Chapin's ques- 
tinii, but still keeping his snakish eyes fastened mali- 
ciously on me. 

'' I am overseer here," Chapin began. " I told 
riatt to take them and use them, and if they were not 
of the proper size I would get others on returning from 
tlie field. It is not his fault. Besides, I shall furnish 
sncli nails as I })lease. I hope you will understand 
M'//, Mr. Tibeats." 

Tibeats made no reply, but, grinding his teeth and 
shaking liis fist, swore he would have satisfaction, 
and that it was not half over yet. Tliereupon he walk- 
ed away, followed by tlie overseer, and entered the 
house, the latter talking to him all the while in asup- 
])ros^ed tone, and with earnest gestures. 

I ivniainiMl where I was, doubting whether it was 
better to fiy or abide the result, whatever it might 
be. Presently Tibeats came out of the house, and, 
saddling In's horse, the only property he possessed be- 
H'des myself, departed on the road to ChenyviUe. 

When he Wiu gone, came out, visibly exci- 


ted, telling me not to stir, not to attempt to leave the 
plantation on any account whatever. He then went 
to the kitchen, and calling Rachel out, conversed with 
her some time. Coming back, he again charged me 
with great earnestness not to run, saying my master 
was a rascal ; that he had left on no good errand, and 
that there might be trouble before night. But at all 
events, he insisted upon it, I must not stir. 

As I stood there, feelings of unutterable agony 
overwhelmed me. I was conscious that I had sub- 
jected myself to unimaginable punishment. The re- 
action that followed my extreme ebullition of anger 
produced the most painful sensations of regret. An 
unfriended, helpless slave — what could I do^ what 
could I say^ to justify, in the remotest manner, the 
heinous act I had committed, of resenting a white 
man's contumely and abuse. I tried to pray — I tried 
to beseech my Heavenly Father to sustain me in my 
sore extremity, but emotion choked my utterance, and 
I could only bow my head upon my hands and weep. 
For at least an hour I remained in this situation, find- 
ing relief only in tears, when, looking up, I beheld 
Tibeats, accompanied by two horsemen, coming down 
the bayou. They rode into the yard, jumped from 
their horses, and approached me with large whips, 
one of them also carrying a coil of rope. 

" Cross your hands," commanded Tibeats, with the 
addition of such a shuddering expression of blasphe- 
my as is not decorous to repeat. 


1 1 [ twklvp: tkars a flave. 

'• Von need not ])ind me, Master Tibeats, I am 
r-A\i\y to go with you anywhere," said I. 

One of his companions then stepped forward, swear- 
lii: ii I made the least resistance he would break my 
head — he W(Mdd tear me limb from limb — he would 
cut my black throat — and giving wide scope to other 
similar expresbions. Perceiving any importunity al- 
together vain, I crossed my hands, submitting hum- 
bly to whatever disposition they might please to make 
<.t' uH\ Thereupon Tibeats tied my wrists, drawing 
the r( (jte an^und them with his utmost strength. Then 
lie bniiiid my ankles in the same manner. In the 
jiieantinie tlie other two had slipped a cord within my 
(■ll)o\vs, running it across my back, and tying it firm 
ly. It was utterly impossible to move hand or foot 
With a remaining piece of rope Tibeats made an awk 
ward noose, and ])laced it about my neck. 

*' Now, then," inquired one of Tibeats' companions, 
** wlii're shall we hang the nigger?" 

One prnj)Osed such a limb, extending from the body 
of a peach tree, near the spot where we were stand- 
ing. His comrade objected to it, alleging it would 
l)reak, and proposed another. Finally they fixed up- 
on the latter. 

During this conversation, and all the time they 
were binding me, I uttered not a word. Overseer 
('l)apin, during the progress of the scene, was walk- 
; ug luistily back and forth on the piazza. Kachel was 
crying hy the kitchen door, and Mrs. Chapin was still 




looking from the window. Hope died witliin my 
heart. Surely my time had come. I should never 
behold the light of another day — never behold the 
faces of my children — the sweet anticipation I had 
cherished with such fondness. I should that hour 
struggle through the fearful agonies of death ! None 
would mourn for me — none revenge me. Soon my 
form would be mouldering in that distant soil, or, per- 
haps, be cast to the slimy reptiles that filled the stag- 
nant waters of the bayou ! Tears flowed down my 
cheeks, but they only afforded a subject of insulting 
comment for my executioners. 

At length, as they were dragging me towards tlie 
tree, Chapin, who had momentarily disappeared from 
the piazza, came out of the house and walked towards 
us. .lie had a pistol in each hand, and as near as I 
can now recall to mind, spoke in a firm, determined 
manner, as follows : 

" Gentlemen, I have a few words to say. You had 
better listen to them. Whoever moves that slave an- 
other foot from where he stands is a dead man. In 
the first place, he does not deserve this treatment. It 
is a shame to murder him in this manner. I never 
knew a more faithful boy than Piatt. You, Tibeats, 
are in the fault yourself You are pretty much of a 
scoundrel, and I know it, and you richly deserve the 
flogging you have received. In the next place, I have 
been overseer on this plantation seven years, and, in 
the absence of William Ford, am master here. My 
duty is to protect his interests, and that duty I shall 


perform. You are not responsible — you are a worth- 
less icllow. Ford holds a mortgage on Piatt of four 
Imiidred dollai-s. If you hang lihn he loses his debt. 
Ciitil tliat is canceled you have no right to take his 
Hfe. You have no right to take it any way. There 
is a L^w for the slave as well as for the white man. 
You are no better than a murderer. 

" As for you," addressing Cook and Eamsay, a 
couple of overseers from neighboring plantations, "as 
f( )r you — begone ! If you have any regard for your 
own safety, I say, begone." 

Cook and Eamsay, without a further word, mount- 
ed their horses and rode away. Tibeats, in a few 
minutes, evidently in fear, and overawed by the deci- 
ded tone of Chapin, sneaked off like a coward, as he 
was, and mounting his horse, followed his companions. 

I remained staTuling where I was, still bound, with 
tlie rope around my neck. As soon as they were 
gone, Cliapin called Rachel, ordering her to run to 
the field, and tell Lawson to hurry to the house with- 
out delay, and bring the brown mule with him, an 
animal much prized for its unusual fleetness. Pres- 
ently the boy appeared. 

" Lawson," said Chapin, " you must go to the Pine 
AVoods. Tell your master Ford to come here at once 
— that he must not delay a single moment. Tell him 
they are trying to murder Piatt. ISTow hurry, boy. 
Bo at the Pine AV^oods by noon if you kill the mule." 
^CliapIn stepped into the house and wrote a pass. 
Wlien he returned, Lawson was at the door, mounted 


on his mule. Keceiving the pass, he plied the whip 
right smartly to the beast, dashed out of the yard, and 
turning up the bayou on a hard gallop, in less time 
than it has taken me to describe the scene, was out 
of sight. 


rrir. hot f»uN — yet bouni> — the cords sink into my flesh — cha- 








As the sun approached the meridian that day it be- 
came instilferably warm. Its hot rays scorched the 
i^rouiul. Tlie earth abnost bbstered the foot that stood 
upon it. I was without coat or hat, standing bare- 
1 leaded, exposed to its burning blaze. Great drops 
of ])ci*spi ration rolled down my face, drenching the 
scanty apparel wherewith I was clothed. Over the 
fence, a very little way off, the peach trees cast their 
cool, delicious shadows on the grass. I wonld gladly 
have given a long year of service to have been ena- 
bled to exchange the heated oven, as it were, where- 
in I stood, for a seat beneath their branches. But I 
was yet bound, the rope still dangling from my neck, 
niul standing in the same tracks where Tibeats and 
his comrades left me. I could not move an inch, so 
finnlv had I been bound. To have been enabled to 


lean against the weaving house would have been a 
luxury indeed. But it was far beyond my reach, 
though distant less than twenty feet. I wanted to lie 
down, but knew I could not rise again. The ground 
was so parched and boiling hot I was aware it would 
but add to the discomfort of my situation. If I couii 
have only moved my position, however slightly, it 
would have been relief unspeakable. But the hot 
rays of a southern sun, beating all the long summer 
day on my bare head, produced not half the suffer- 
ing I experienced from my aching limbs. My wrists 
and ankles, and the cords of my legs and arms began 
to swell, burying the rope that bound them into the 
swollen flesh. 

All day Chapin walked back and forth upon the 
stoop, but not once approached me. He appearecP to 
be in a state of great uneasiness, looking first 
towards me, and then up the road, as if expecting 
some arrival every moment. He did not go to the 
field, as was his custom. It was evident from his man- 
ner that he supposed Tibeats would return with more 
and better armed assistance, perhaps, to renew the 
quarrel, and it was equally evident he had prepared 
his mind to defend my life at whatever hazard. 
Why he did not relieve me — why he suffered me to 
remain in agony the whole weary day, I never kuew 
It was not for want of sympath}^, I am certain. Per- 
haps he wished Ford to see the rope about my neck, 
and the brutal manner in which I had been bound ; 
perliaps his interference witli auotlier's ]^ro])erty in 


wliich he bad no legal interest might have been a 
trespass, wliich would have subjected him to the pen- 
alty of the law. AVhv Tibeats was all day absent was 
another mystery I never could divine. He knew well 
enough that Chapin would not harm him unless he 
persiisted in his design against me. Lawson told me 
afterwards, that, as he passed the plantation of John 
David Cheney, he saw the three, and that they turned 
and looked after him as he flew by. I think his sup- 
position was, that Lawson had been sent out by Over- 
seer Chapin to arouse the neighboring planters, and 
to call on them to come to his assistance. He, there- 
fore, undoubtedly, acted on the principle, that " dis 
cretion is the better part of valor," and kept away. 

But whatever motive may have governed the cow- 
ardly and malignant tyrant, it is of no importance. 
Tliere I still stood in the noon-tide sun, groaning with 
pain. From long before daylight I had not eaten a 
inoi-scl. I was growing faint from pain, and thirst, 
and hunger. Once only, in the very hottest portion 
of the day, Rachel, half fearful she was acting con- 
trary to the overseer's wishes, ventured to me, and 
held a cup of water to my lips. Tlie humble crea- 
ture never knew, nor could she comprehend if she 
liud heard them, the blessings I invoked upon her, 
f<»r that balmy draught. She could only say, "Oh, 
Phitt, how I do pity you," and then hastened back to 
her labors in the kitchen. 

Never did the sun move so slowly through the 
heavens — never did it shower down such fervent and 


fiery rays, as it did tliat day. At least, so it appear- 
ed to me. What mv meditations were — the iminme- 
nihle thoughts that thronged through my distracted 
hrain — I will not attempt to give expression to. 
Suthee it to say, during the whole long day I came 
not to the conclusion, even once, that the southern 
slave, fed^ clothed, wdiipped and protected by his 
master, is happier than the free colored citizen of the 
]^orth. To that conclusion I have never since arri- 
ved. There are many, however, even in the JN'orthem 
States, benevolent and well-disposed men, wlio will 
pronounce my opinion erroneous, and gravely proceed 
to substantiate the assertion with an argument. Alas ! 
they have never drank, as I have, from the bitter cup 
of slavery. Just at sunset my heart leaped with un- 
bounded joy, as Ford came riding into the yard, his 
horse covered with foam. Chapin met him at the 
door, and after conversing a short time, he walked 
directly to me. 

" Poor Piatt, you are in a bad state," was the only 
expression that escaped his lips. 

" Thank God !" said I, " thank God, Master Ford, 
that you have come at last." 

Drawing a knife from his pocket, he indignantly 
cut the cord from my wrists, arms, and ankles, and 
slipped the noose from my neck. I attempted to 
walk, but staggered Kke a drunken man, and fell par- 
tially to the ground. 

Ford returned immediately to the house, lea\nng 
me alone again. As he reached the piazza, Tibeats 

122 T^YEL^^: teahs a slate. 

and his two friends rode np. A long dialogue fol- 
lowed. I could bear tlie sound of their voices, the 
mild tones of Ford mingling with the angry accents 
of Tib eats, but was unable to distinguish what was 
said. Finally the three departed again, apparently 
not well pleased. 

I endeavored to raise the hammer, thinking to show 
Ford how willing I was to work, by proceeding with 
my labors on the weaving house, but it fell from my 
nerveless hand. At dark I crawled into the cabin, 
and laid down. I was in gi-eat misery — all sore and 
swollen — the slightest movement producing excruci- 
ating: sufierino:. Soon the hands came in from the 
lield. Eachel, when she went after Lawson, had told 
them what had happened. Eliza and Mary broiled 
me a piece of bacon, but my appetite was gone. 
Tlien they scorched some corn meal and made coffee. 
It was all that 1 could take. Eliza consoled me and 
was very kmd. It was not long before the cabin was 
full of Slaves. Tliey gathered round me, asking many 
questions about the difficulty with Tibeats in the 
morning — and the particulars of all the occurrences 
of the day. Then Eachel came in, and in her simple 
language, repeated it over again — dwelling emphat- 
ically on the kick that sent Tibeats rolling over on 
the ground — whereupon there was a general titter 
tliroughout the crowd. Then she described how Cha- 
pin walked out with his pistols and rescued me, 
:ind hr»w Master Ford cut the ropes with his knife, 
jugt as if he was m»L 


Bj this time Lawson had retnmed. He had to 
regale them with an account of his trip to the Pine 
Woods — how the brown mule bore him faster than 
a " streak o' lightnin'* — how he astonished everybody 
as he flew along — how Master Ford started right 
away — how he said Piatt was a good nigger, and 
they shouldn't kill him, concluding with pretty strong 
intimations that there was not another human being 
in the wide world, who could have created such a 
universal sensation on the road, or performed such a 
marvelous John Gilpin feat, as he had done that day 
on the brown mule. 

The kind creatures loaded me with the expression 
of their sympathy — saying, Tibeats was a hard, cruel 
man, and hoping •• Massa Ford*' would get me back 
again. In this manner they passed the time, discus- 
sing, chatting, talking over and over again the exci- 
ting affair, xmtil suddenly Chapia presented himself 
at the cabin door and called me. 

" Piatt," said he, " you will sleep on the floor in the 
- great house to-night ; bring your blanket with you." 

I arose as quickly as I was able, took my blanket 
in my hand, and followed him. On the way he in 
formed me that he should not wonder if Tibeats waj 
back aeaiQ before momino: — that he intended to kill 
me — and that he did not mean he should do it w'th- 
out witnesses. Had he stabbed me to the he^ t ia 
the presence of a hundred slaves, not one of the n, by 
the laws of Louisiana, could have given ev dence 
agaiost bim. Ilaid down on the floor in the great 


],on>c" — tlic first and tlie last time sucli a sumptu- 
ous resting place was granted me during my twelve 
y eai-s of bondage — and tried to sleep. JS'ear midnight 
tlie dog began to bark. Chapin arose, looked from 
tlie window, but could discover nothing. At length 
the dog was quiet. As he returned to his room, he said, 

" I believe, Piatt, that scoundrel is skulking about 
the premises somewhere. K the dog barks again, and 
I am sleeping, wake me." 

I promised to do so. After the lapse of an hour or 
more, the dog re-commenced his clamor, running 
towards the gate, then back again, all the while bark- 
ing furiously. 

Chapin was out of bed without waiting to be called. 
On this occasion, he stepped forth upon the ^piazza, 
and remained standing there a considerable length of 
time. Nothing, however, was to be seen, and the 
(log returned to his kennel. We were not disturbed 
again during the night. Tlie excessive pain that I 
suffered, and the dread of some impending danger, 
l)revented any rest whatever. Whether or not Tibe- 
ats did actually return to the plantation that night, 
seeking an opportunity to wreak his vengeance upon 
me, is a secret known only to himself, perhaps. 1 
thought then, however, and have the strong impres- 
sion still, that he was there. At all events, he had 
the disposition of an assassin — cowering before a 
brave man's words, but ready to strike his helpless or 
unsuspecting victim in the ./ack, as I had reason af- 
terwards to know. 

en A pin's appeaeance. 125 

At dayliglit in the morning, I arose, sore and wea- 
ry, having rested little. I^evertlieless, after partaking 
breakfast, which Mary and Eliza had prepared for me 
in the cabin, I proceeded to the weaving-honse and 
commenced the labors of anotlier day. It was Cha 
pin's practice, as it is the practice of overseers gen 
erally, immediately on arising, to bestride his horse, 
always saddled and bridled and ready for him — 
the particnlar bnsiness of some slave — and ride into 
the field. This morning, on the contrary, he came to 
the weaving-honse, asking if I had seen anything ot 
Tibeats yet. Replying in the negative, he remarked 
there was something not right abont the /ellow — 
there was bad blood in him — that I mnst keep a 
sharp watch of him, or he would do me wrong some 
day when I least expected it. 

"While he was yet speaking, Tibeats rode in, hitched 
his horse, and entered the house. I had little fear of 
him while Ford and Cliapin were at hand, but they 
could not be near me always. 

Oh ! how heavily the weight of slavery pressed 
upon me then. I must toil day after day, endure 
abuse and taunts and scoffs, sleep on the hard ground, 
live on the coarsest fare, and not only this, but live 
the slave of a blood-seeking wretch, of whom I must 
stand henceforth in continued fear and dread. Why 
had I not died in my young years — before God had 
given me children to love and live for? What un- 
happiness and suffering and sorrow it would have 
prevented. I sighed for liberty ; but the bondman's 


chain was round me, and could not be shaken off. 1 
could only gaze wistfully towards the ISTorth, and 
think of the thousands of miles that stretched between 
me and the soil of freedom, over which a Uach free- 
man may not pass. 

Tibeats, in the course of half an hour, walked over 
to the weaving-house, looked at me sharply, then re- 
tunu'd without saying anything. Most of the fore- 
noon lie sat on the piazza, reading a newspaper and 
conversing with Ford. After dinner, the latter left 
for the Pine Woods, and it was indeed with regret 
that I beheld him depart from the plantation. 

Once more during the day Tibeats came to me, 
gave me some order, and returned. 

During the week the weaving-bouse was completed 
— Tibeats in tlie meantime making no allusion what- 
ever to the difficulty — when I was informed be bad 
hired me to Peter Tanner, to work under another car- 
jxMiter l)y the name of Myers. This announcement 
was received with gratification, as any place w^as de- 
sirable that would relieve me of bis hateful presence. 

Peter Tanner, as the reader has abeady been in- 
formed, lived on the opposite shore, and was the broth- 
er of ^listress Ford. lie is one of the most extensive 
j)lanters on Bayou Boeuf, and owns a large number 
of slaves. 

Over I went to Tanner's, joyfully enough. He bad 
heard of my late difficulties— in fact, I ascertained 
the flogging of Tibeats was soon blazoned far and wide. 
Tliis aflair, together with my rafting experiment, baa 


/endered me somewhat notorious. More tlian once 1 
heard it said that Piatt Ford, now Piatt Tibeats — a 
slave's name changes with his change of master — was 
" a devil of a nigger." But I was destined to make a 
still further noise, as will presently be seen, through- 
out the little world of Bayou Boeuf. 

Peter Tanner endeavored to impress upon me the 
idea that he was quite severe, though I could per- 
ceive there was a vein of good humor in the old fel- 
low, after all. 

" You're the nigger," he said to me on my arrival 
— " You're tho nigger that flogged your master, eh? 
You're the nigger that kicks, and holds carpenter 
♦Tibeats by the leg, and wallops him, are ye ? I'd like 
to see you hold me by the leg — I should. You're a 
'portant character — you're a great nigger — very re- 
markable nigger, ain't ye ? Fd lash you — Fd take 
the tantrums out of ye. Jest take hold of my leg, if 
you please. ]^one of your pranks here, my boy, re- 
member that Now go to work, you Tcickivu rascal," 
concluded Peter Tanner, unable to suppress a half- 
comical grin at his own wit and sarcasm. 

After listening to this salutation, I was taken charge 
of by Myers, and labored under his direction for a 
month, to his and my own satisfaction. 

Like William Ford, his brother-in-law, Tanner was 
in the habit of reading the Bible to his slaves on the 
Sabbath, but in a somewhat different spirit. He was 
an impressive commentator on the New-Testament. 
The first Sunday after my coming to the plantation, 


he called them together, and began to read the twelfth 
cliajiter uf Luke. When he came to the 47th verse, 
he looked deliberately around him, and continued — 
*' And that servant which knew his lord's mZZ,"— here 
he paused, looking around more deliberately than be- 
fore, and again proceeded — " which knew his lord's 
will, audi prepared not himself" — here was another 
pause — '^prepared not himself, neither did according 
to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes^ 

" D'ye hear that ? " demanded Peter, emphatically. 
" StripeSy^ he repeated, slowly and distinctly, taking 
off his spectacles, preparatory to making a few re- 

" That nigger that don't take care — that don't obey 
his lord — that's his master — d'ye see? — that ^ere 
nigger shall be beaten with many stripes. Now, 
*many' signifies a great many — forty, a hundred, 
a hundred and fifty lashes. Thafs Scripter ! " and so 
Peter continued to elucidate the subject for a gre^,t 
length of time, much to the edification of his sable 

At the conclusion of the exercises, calling up three 
of his slaves, AVarner, Will and Major, he cried out 
to me — 

" Here, Piatt, you held Tibeats by the legs ; now I'll 
see if you can hold these rascals in the same way, till 
I get back from meetin'." 

Thereupon he ordered them to the stocks — a com- 
mon thing on plantations in the Ked Eiver country. 
Tlie stocks are formed of two planks, the lower one 


made fast at the ends to two short posts, driven firmly 
into the ground. At regular distances half circles 
are cut in the upper edge. The other plank is fas- 
tened to one of the posts "by a hinge, so that it can be 
Dpened or shut down, in the same manner as the blade 
of a pocket-knife is shut or opened. In the lower edge 
of the upper plank corresponding half circles are also 
cut, so that When they close, a row of holes is formed 
large enough to admit a negro's leg above the ankle, 
but not large enough to enable him to draw out his 
foot. The other end of the upper plank, opposite the 
hinge, is fastened to its post by lock and key. The 
slave is made to sit upon the ground, when the upper- 
most plank is elevated, his legs, just above the ankles, 
placed in the sub-half circles, and shutting it down 
again, and locking it, he is held secure and fast. Yery 
often the neck instead of the ankle is enclosed. In 
this manner they are held during the operation of 

Warner, Will and Major, according to Tanner's ac- 
count of them, were melon-stealing, Sabbath-break- 
ing niggers, and not approving of such wickedness, he 
felt it his duty to put them in the stocks. Handing 
me the key, himself, Myers, Mistress Tanner and the 
children entered the carriage and drove away to 
church at Cheneyville. Wlien they were gone, the 
boys begged me to let them out. I felt sorry to see 
them sitting on the hot ground, and remembered my 
own sufferings in the sun. Upon their promise to re- 
turn to the stocks at any moment they were required 

F* 9 


to do SO, I consented to release them. Grateful for 
tlie lenity shown tliem, and in order in some meas- 
ure to repay it, they could do no less, of course, 
tlian pilot me to the melon-patch. Shortly before 
Tanner's return, they were in the stocks again. 
Finally he drove up, and looking at the boys, said, with 
a chuckle, — 

" Aha ! ye havn't been strolling about much to-day, 
any way. Pll teach you what's what. I ^11 tire ye 
of eating water-melons on the Lord's day, ye Sabbath- 
breaking niggers." 

Peter Tanner prided himself upon his strict religious 
observances : he was a deacon in the church. 

But I have now reached a point in the progress of 
my narrative, when it becomes necessary to turn away 
from these light descriptions, to the more grave and 
weighty matter of the second battle with Master Tib- 
eats, and the flight through the great Pacoudrie 









At the end of a montli, my services being no Ion 
ger required at Tanner's I was sent over the bayou 
again to my master, whom I found engaged in build- 
ing the cotton press. This was situated at some dis- 
tance from the great house, in a rather retired place. 
I commenced working once more in company with 
Tibeats, being entirely alone with him most part of 
the time. I remembered the words of Chapin, his 
precautions, his advice to beware, lest in some unsus- 
pecting moment he might injure me. They were al- 
ways in my mind, so that I lived in a most uneasy 
state of apprehension and fear. One eye was on my 
work, the other on my master. I determined to give 
him no cause of offence, to work still more dihgently, 

139 TWF.r.vE TicAKS A sla\t:. 

if pr)ssible, than I liad done, to bear whatever a])nse 
ho miglit lieap upon me, save bodily injury, humbly 
and patiently, hoping thereby to soften in some de- 
gree his maimer towards me, until the blessed time 
miiflit come when I should be delivered from his 

Tlic third morning after my return, Chapin left tlie 
plantation for Cheneyville, to be absent until night. 
Tibeats, on that morning, was attacked with one of 
those periodical fits of spleen and ill-humor to which 
lie was frequently subject, rendering him still more 
disagreeable and venomous than usual. 

It was about nine o'clock in the forenoon, wdien 1 
was busily employed with the jack-plane on one of the 
sweeps. Tibeats was standing by the work-bench, 
fitting a handle into the chisel, with which he had 
been engaged previously in cutting the thread of the 

" You are not planing that down enough," said he. 

" It is just even with the line," I replied. 

" You're a d — d liar," he exclaimed passionately. 

^' Oh, well, master," I said, mildly, " I will plane it 
down more if yon say so," at the same time proceed- 
ing to do as I supposed he desired. Before one sha- 
ving had been removed, however, he cried out, say- 
<Mg I had now planed it too deep — it was too small 
~ I had spoiled the sweep entirely. Tlien followed 
Murscs and imprecations. I had endeavored to do ex- 
actly as lie directed, but nothing would satisfy the un- 
reasonable man. In silence and in dread I stood by the 


sweep, liolding the jaek-plane in my hand, not know- 
ing what to do, and not daring to be idle. His anger 
grew more and more violent, until, finally, with an 
oath, such a bitter, frightful oath as only Tibeats could 
utter, he seized a hatchet from the work-bench and 
darted towards me, swearing he would cut my head 

It was a moment of life or death. Tlie sharp, bright 
blade of the hatchet glittered -in the sun. In another 
instant it would be buried in m^y, brain, and yet in 
that instant — so quick will a man's thoughts come to 
him in such a fearful strait — I reasoned with my- 
self. If I stood still, my doom was certain ; if I fled, 
ten chances to one the hatchet, flying from his hand 
with a too-deadly and unerring aim, would strike me 
in the back. Tliere was but one course to take. 
Springing towards him with all my power, and meet- 
ing him full half-way, before he could bring down the 
blow, with one hand I caught his uplifted arm, with 
the other seized him by the throat. We stood look- 
ing each other in the eyes. In his I could see mur- 
der. I felt as if I had a serpent by the neck, watch- 
ing the slightest relaxation of my gripe, to coil itself 
round my body, crushing and stinging it to death. I 
thought to scream aloud, trusting that some ear might 
catch the sound — but Chapin was away; the hands 
were in the field ; there was no living soul in sight 
or hearing. 

The good genius, which thus far through life has 
saved me from the hands of violence, at that moment 


siiL'i:estc«l a lucky tbouglit. With a vigorons and 
suilden kick, that brought liim on one knee, with a 
grniin, I released my hold upon his throat, snatched 
the hatchet, and cast it beyond reach. 

Frantic with rage, maddened beyond control, he 
eeized a white oak stick, five feet long, perhaps, and 
as large in circumference as his hand conld grasp, 
which was lying on the ground. Again he rnshed 
towards me, and again I met him, seized him about 
the waist, and being the stronger of the two, bore 
him to the earth. Wliile in that position I obtained 
j>ossession of the stick, and rising, cast it from me, 

lie likewise arose and ran for the broad-axe, on the 
work-bench. Fortunately, there was a heavy plank 
lying upon its broad blade, in sncli a manner that he 
could not extricate it, before I had sprung upon his 
]»ack. Pressing liim down closely and heavily on the 
}>lank, so that the axe was held more firmly to its 
l»lace, I endeavored, but in vain, to break his grasp 
upon the handle. In that position we remained some 

There have been honi*s in my unhappy life, many 
ot* them, when the contemplation of death as the end 
of earthly sorrow — of the grave as a resting place 
for the tired and worn out body — has been pleasant 
to dwell upon. But such contemplations vanish in the 
hour c»f peril. No man, in his full strength, can 
stj'.nd undismayed, in the presence of the "king of 
terrors." Life is dear to every living thing; tim 


"womi tliat crawls upon the ground will struggle for 
it. At that moment it was dear to me, enslaved and 
treated as I ^\'as. 

Not able to unloose his hand, once more I seized 
him by the throat, and this time, with a vice-like 
gripe that soon relaxed his hold. He became pliant 
and unstrung. His face, that had been white with 
passion, was now black from suffocation. Those small 
serpent eyes that spat such venom, were now full of 
horror — two great white orbs starting from their 
sockets ! 

Tliere was " a lurking devil" in my heart that 
prompted me to kill the human blood-hound on the 
spot — to retain the gripe on his accursed throat till 
the breath of life was gone ! I dared not murder 
him, and I dared not let him live. If I killed him, 
my life must pay the forfeit — if he lived, my life 
only would satisfy his vengeance. A voice within 
whispered me to fly. To be a wanderer among the 
swamps, a fugitive and a vagabond on the face of 
the earth, was preferable to the life that I was lead- 

My resolution was soon formed, and swinging him 
from the work-bench to the ground, I leaped a fence 
near by, and hurried across the plantation, passing 
the slaves at work in the cotton field. At the end of 
a quarter of a mile I reached the wood-pasture, and 
it was a short time indeed that I had been running 
it. Climbing on to a high fence, I could see the 
cotton press, the great house, and the space Ijctwcen. 


Jt was a conspicuous position, from whence tlie whole 
j.hiiitation was in view. I saw Tibeats cross the field 
towards the liouse, and enter it — then he came out, 
carrying liis saddle, and presently mounted his horse 
and galloped away. 

I was desolate, l)ut tliankful. Thankful that my 
life was spared, — desolate and discouraged with the 
prospect before me. "WHiat would become of me? 
AVho would befriend me? Whither should I fly? 
Oil, God ! Thou who gavest me life, and implanted 
in my bosom the love of life — who filled it with 
emotions such as other men, thy creatures, have, do 
not forsake me. Uave pity on the poor slave — let 
me not perish.. If thou dost not protect me, I am 
lost — lost! Such supplications, silently and unut 
tered, ascended from my inmost heart to Heaven 
Jhit there was no answering voice — no sweet, low 
tone, coming down from on high, whispering to my 
soul, " It is I, be not afraid." I w^as the forsaken of 
God, it seemed — the despised and hated of men ! 

In about three-fourths of an hour several of the 
slaves shouted and nuide signs for me to run. Pres- 
ently, looking up the bayou, I saw Tibeats and two 
others on horse-back, coming at a fast gait, follow^ed 
by a troop of dogs. There were as many as eight or 
tefi. Distant as I was, I knew them. They belonged 
on the adjoining plantation. Tlie dogs used on Bayou 
no-iiribr liuntiug slaves are a kind of blood-hound, 
but a lar more savage breed than is found in the 
i\«»rthurn States. They will attack a negro, at their 


master's bidding, and cling to him as tlie common 
bull-doo^ will clino' to a four footed animal. Fre- 
qnently tlieir loud bay is heard in the swamps, and 
then there is speculation as to what point the runaway 
will be overhauled — the same as a ^N^ew-York hunter 
stops to listen to the hounds coursing along the hill- 
sides, and suggests to his companion that the fox will 
be taken at such a place. I never knew a slave es- 
caping with his life from Bayou Boeuf. One reason 
is, tiiey are not allowed to learn the art of swimming, 
and are incapable of crossing the most inconsiderable 
stream. In their flight they can go in no direction 
but a little way without coming to a bayou, when the 
inevitable alternative is presented, of being drowned 
or overtaken by tlie dogs. In youth I had practised 
in the clear streams that flow through my native dis- 
trict, until I had become an expert swimmer, and felt 
at home in the watery element. 

I stood upon the fence until the dogs had reached 
the cotton press. In an instant more, their long, sav- 
age yells announced they were on my track. Leap- 
ing down from my position, I ran towards the swamp. 
Fear gave me strength, and I exerted it to the utmost. 
Every few moments I could hear the yelpings of the 
dogs. Tliey were gaining upon me. Every howl 
was nearer and nearer. Each moment I expected 
they would spring upon my back — expected to feel 
their long teeth sinking into my flesh. There were 
so many of them, I knew they would tear me to pie- 
ces, that they would worry me, at once, to death. 1 

138 t»vi:lve yk.\jis a slave. 

prisped for breath — gasped forth a half-uttered, cho- 
king i)rayer to the Ahnighty to save me — to give me 
6trength to reach some wide, deep bayou where I 
couUl tlirow tliem off the track, or sink into its wa- 
ters. Presently I readied a tliick pahnetto bottom. 
As r Ih'd tlirough them they made a loud rustling 
noise, not loud enough, however, to drown the voices 
»f tlie dogs. 

Continuing my course due south, as nearly as lean 
judge, I came at length to water just over shoe, 
riie hounds at that moment could not have been five 
nxls bt'liind me. I could hear them crashing and 
phmging through the palmettoes, their loud, eager 
yells making the whole swamp clamorous with the 
sound. Hope revived a little as I reached the water. 
If it were only deeper, they might loose the scent, and 
til us disconcerted, afford me the opportunity of eva- 
ding them. Luckily, it grew deeper the farther I 
]>roceeded — now over my ankles — now half-way to 
my knees — now sinking a moment to my waist, and 
tlien emerging presently into more shallow places. 
'J'he dogs had not gained upon me since I struck the 
water. Evidently they were confused. I^ow their 
savage intonations grew more and more distant, as- 
suring me that I was leaving them. Finally I stop- 
])od to listen, but the long howl came booming on the 
air again, telling me I was not yet safe. From bog to 
bof^, where I had stepped, they could still keep upon 
the track, though impeded by the water. At length, 
to my great joy, I came to a wide bayou, and plung- 


mg 111, liad soon stemmed its sluggisli current to tlio 
other side. There, certainly, the dogs woukl be con- 
founded — the current carrying down the stream all 
traces of that slight, mysterious scent, which enables 
the quick-smelling hound to follow in the track of the 

After crossing this bayou the water became so 
deep I could not run. I was now in what I after- 
wards learned was the " Great Pacoudrie Swamp." 
It was filled with immense trees — the sycamore, the 
gum, the cotton wood and cypress, and extends, I am 
informed, to the shore of the Calcasieu river. For 
thirty or forty miles it is without inhabitants, save 
wild beasts — the bear, the wild-cat, the tiger, and 
great slimy reptiles, that are crawling through it 
everywhere. Long before I reached the bayou, in 
fact, from the time 1 struck the water until I emer- 
ged from the swamp on my return, these reptiles 
surrounded me. I saw hundreds of moccasin snakes. 
Every log and bog — every trunk of a fallen tree, 
over which I was compelled to step or climb, was 
alive with them. They crawled away at my ap- 
proach, but sometimes in my haste, I almost placed 
my hand or foot upon them. They are poisonous 
serpents— their bite more fatal than the rattlesnake's. 
Besides, I had lost one shoe, the sole having come 
entirely off, leaving the upper only dangling to my 

I saw also many alligators, great and small, lying 
in the water, or on pieces of floodwood. The noise 1 


made usually startled them, wlien they moved off and 
plunged into the deepest places. Sometimes, how- 
ever, I would come directly upon a monster before 
observing it. In such cases, I would start back, run 
a short way round, and in that manner shun them. 
Straight forward, they will run a short distance rapidly, 
but do not possess the power of turning. In a crook- 
ed race, there is no difficulty in evading them. 

About two o'clock in the afternoon, I heard the 
last of the hounds. Probably they did not cross the 
bayou. Wet and weary, but relieved from the sense 
of instant peril, I continued on, more cautious and 
afraid, liowever, of the snakes and alligatoi-s than I 
had been in the earlier portion of my flight. E'ow, 
before stepping into a muddy pool, I w^ould strike 
tlie water with a stick. If the waters moved, I would 
go around it, if not,-, w^ould venture through. 

At length the sun went down, and gradually night's 
trailing mantle shrouded the great swamp in dark- 
ness. Still I staggered on, fearing every instant 1 
should feel the dreadful sting of the moccasin, or l)e 
cruslied within the jaws of some disturbed alligator. 
Tlie dread of them now almost equaled the fear of 
the pursuing hounds. The moon arose after a time, 
its mild light creeping through the overspreading 
branches, loaded with long, pendent moss. I kept 
traveling forwards until after midnight, hoping all 
the wliile that I would soon emerge into some less 
desolate and dangerous region. But the water grew 
deeper and the walking more difficult than ever. J 


perceived it would be impossible to proceed much 
farther, and knew not, moreover, what hands I might 
fall into, should I succeed in reaching a human hab- 
itation, ^ot prosdded with a pass, any white man 
would be at liberty to arrest me, and place me in 
prison until such time as my master should '' prove 
property, pay charges, and take me away." I was an 
estray, and if so unfortunate as to meet a law-abiding 
citizen of Louisiana, he would deem it his duty to his 
neighbor, perhaps, to put me forthwith in the pound. 
Keally, it was difficult to determine which I had most 
reason to fear — dogs, alligators or men ! 

After midnight, however, I came to a halt. Ima- 
gination cannot picture the dreariness of the scene. 
The swamp was resonant with the quacking of innu- 
merable ducks ! Since the foundation of the earth, 
in all j)robability, a human footstep had never before 
so far penetrated the ' recesses of the swamp. It was 
not silent now — silent to a degree that rendered it 
oppressive, — as it was when the sun was' shining in 
the heavens. My midnight intrusion had awakened 
the feathered tribes, which seemed to throng the mo- 
rass in hundreds of thousands, and their garrulous 
throats poured forth such multitudinous sounds — 
there was such a fluttering of wings — such sullen 
plunges in the water all around me — that I was af- 
frighted and appalled. All the fowls of the air, and 
all the creeping things of the earth appeared to have 
assembled together in that particular place, for the 
purpose of filling it with clamor and corfusion. Not 


by Imman dwellings — not in crowded cities alone, 
are the sights and sounds of life. Tlie w^ildest places 
of tlie earth are full of them. Even in the heart of 
that dismal swamp, God had provided a refuge and a 
dwelling place for millions of living things. 

Tlie moon had now risen above the trees, when I 
resolved upon a new project. Thus far Iliad endeav- 
ored to travel as nearly south as possible. Turning 
about I proceeded in a north-west direction, my ob- 
ject being to strike the Pine Woods in the vicinity of 
Master Ford's. Once within the shadow of liis pro 
tection, I felt I would be comparatively safe. 

My clothes were in tatters, my hands, face, and 
body covered with scratches, received from the sharp 
knots of fallen trees, and in climbing over piles of 
brush and floodwood. My bare foot was full of thorns. 
I was besmeared with muck and mud, and the green 
slime that had collected on the surface of the dead 
water, in which I had been immersed to the neck 
numy times during the day and night. Hour after 
hour, and tiresome indeed had they become, I contin- 
ued to plod along on my north-west course. Tlie wa- 
ter began to grow less deep, and the ground more firm 
under my feet. At last I reached the Pacoudrie, the 
same wide bayou I had swam while "outward 
bound." I swam it again, and shortly after thought 
I heard a cock crow, but the sound was faint, and it 
might have been a mockery of the ear. Tlie water 
receded from my advancing footsteps — now I had 
left the bogs belihid me — now I was on dryland 


tliat gradually ascended to the plain, and I knew 1 
was somewhere in the " Great Pine AVoods." 

Just at day-break I came to an opening — a sort of 
small plantation — • but one I had never seen before. 
In the edge of the woods I came upon two men, a 
slave and his young master, engaged in catching wild 
hogs. The white man I knew would demand my 
pass, and not able to give him one, would take me 
into possession. I was too wearied to run again, and 
too desperate to be taken, and therefore adopted a 
ruse that proved entirely successful. Assuming a 
fierce expression, I walked directly towards him, look- 
ing him steadily in the face. As I approached, he 
moved backwards with an air of alarm. It was plain 
he was much affrighted — that he looked upon me as 
some infernal goblin, just arisen from the bowels of 
the swamp ! 

" Where does William Ford live ? " I demanded, m 
no gentle tone. 

" He lives seven miles from here," was the reply. 

" Which is the way to his place ? " I again demand- 
ed, trying to look more fiercely than ever. 

" Do you see those pine trees yonder ? " he asked, 
pointing to two, a mile distant, that rose far above 
their fellows, like a couple of tall sentinels, overlook 
ing the broad expanse of forest. 

" I see them," was the answer. 

" At the feet of those pine trees," he continued, 
" runs the Texas road. Turn to the left, and it wih 
lead you to William Ford's." 


Without furtlier parley, I hastened forward, happy 
as he was, no doubt, to pLace the widest possible dis- 
tance between us. Striking the Texas road, I turned 
to the left hand, as directed, and soon passed a great 
fire, where a pile of logs were burning. I went to it, 
thinking I would dry my clothes ; but the gray light 
of the morning was fast breaking aw^ay, — some pass- 
ing white man might observe me ; besides, the heat 
overpowered me with the desire of sleep : so, linger- 
ing no longer, I continued my travels, and finally, 
about eight o'clock, reached the house of Master Ford. 

The slaves were all absent from the quarters, at 
their work. Stepping on to the piazza, I knocked at 
the door, which was soon opened by Mistress Ford. 
My appearance was so changed — I was in such a wo- 
begone and forlorn condition, she did not know me. 
Inquiring if Master Ford was at home, that good man 
made his appearance, before the question could be 
answered. I told him of my flight, and all the par- 
ticulars connected with it. He listened attentively, 
and when I had concluded, spoke to me kindly and 
sympathetically, and taking me to the kitchen, called 
John, and ordered him to prepare me food. I had 
tasted nothing since daylight the previous morning. 

"When John had set the meal before me, the madam 
came out with a bowl of milk, and many little deli- 
cious dainties, such as rarely please the palate of a 
slave. I was hungry, and I was weary, but neither 
food nor rest afforded half the pleasure as did the 
blessed voices speaking kindness and consolation. It 

A»D ANT> REST. 145 

was the oil and the wine which the Good Samaritan 
in the " Great Pine Woods " was ready to pour into 
the wounded spirit of the slave, who came to him, 
stripped of his raiment and half-dead. 

Tliey left me in the cabin, that I might rest. Blessed 
be sleep ! It visiteth all alike, descending as the dews 
of heaven on the bond and free. Soon it nestled to my 
bosom, driving away the troubles that oppressed it, and 
bearing me to that shadowy region, where I saw again 
the faces, and listened to the voices of my children, 
who, alas, for aught I knew in my waking hours, had 
fallen into the arms of that ot/ier sleep, from which 
they never would arouse. 












KDWIN rpps. 

After a long sleep, sometime in tlie afternoon I 
awoke, refreshed, but very sore and stiff. Sally came 
in and talked with me, while John cooked me some 
dinner. Sally was in great tronble, as well as myself, 
one of her children being ill, and she feared it could 
not survive. Dinner over, after walking about the 
quarters for a while, visiting Sally's cabin and looking 
at the sick child, I strolled into the madam's garden. 
Tlioiigh it w{is a season of the year when the voices 
of the birds are silent, and the trees are stripped of 
t]i('ir summer glories in more frigid climes, yet the 
whole variety of roses were then blooming there, and 

GARDEN. 147 

the long, luxuriant vines creeping over the frames. 
Tlie crimson and golden fruit hung half hidden amidst 
the jounger and older blossoms of the peach, the or- 
ange, the plum, and the pomegranate ; for, in that 
region of almost perpetual warmth, the leaves are 
falling and the buds bursting into bloom the whole 
year long. 

I indulged the most grateful feelings towards Mas- 
ter and Mistress Ford, and wishing in some manner 
to repay their kindness, commenced trimming the 
vines, and afterwards weeding out the grass from 
among the orange and pomegranate trees. The latter 
grows eight or ten feet high, and its fruit, though lar 
ger, is similar in appearance to the jelly-flower. It 
has the luscious flavor of the strawberry. Oranges, 
peaches, plums, and most other fruits are indigenous 
to the rich, warm soil of Avoyelles ; but the apple, the 
most common of them all in colder latitudes, is rare- 
ly to be seen. 

Mistress Ford came out presently, saying it was 
praise-worthy in me, but I was not in a condition to la- 
bor, and might rest myself at the quarters until mas- 
ter should go down to Bayou Boeuf, which would not 
be that day, and it might not be the next. I said to 
her — to be sure, I felt bad, and was stiff, and that 
my foot pained me, the stubs and thorns having so 
torn it , but thought such exercise would not hurt 
me, and that it was a great pleasure to work for so 
good a mistress. Thereupon she returned to the great 
house, and for three days I was diligent in the garden, 


cleaning tlie walks, weeding the flower beds, and 
l)ulliTig np the rank grass beneath the jessamine vines, 
which the gentle and generous hand of my protectress 
had taught to clamber along the walls. 

Tlie fourth morning, having become recruited and 
refreshed, Master Ford ordered me to make ready to 
accompany him to the bayou. There was but one 
saddle horse at the opening, all the others with 
the mules having been sent down to the plantation. 
I said I could walk, and bidding Sally and John good- 
bye, left the opening, trotting along by the horse's 

Tluit little paradise in the Great Pine Woods was 
the oasis in the desert, towards which my heart turn- 
ed lovingly, during many years of bondage. I went 
forth from it now with regret and sorrow, not so over- 
whelming, however, as if it had then been given me 
to know that I should never return to it again. 

Master Ford urged me to take his place occasion- 
ally on the horse, to rest me ; but I said no, I was not 
tired, and it was better for me to walk than him. He 
said many kind and cheering things to me on the way, 
riding slowly, in order that I might keep pace with 
him. Tlie goodness of God was manifest, he declared, 
in my miraculous escape from the swamp. As Dan- 
iel came forth unharmed from the den of lions, and 
as Jonah had been preserved in the whale's belly, 
even so had I been delivered from evil by the Al- 
mighty. He interrogated me in regard to the various 
feai-s and emotions I had experienced during the day 

ford's remarks on the way. 149 

and higlit, and if I had felt, at any time, a desire to 
pray. I felt forsaken of the whole world, I answered 
him, and was praying mentally all the while. At 
such times, said he, the heart of man turns instinct- 
ively towards his Maker. In prosperity, and when 
there is nothing to injure or make him afraid, he re- 
members Him not, and is ready to defy Him ; but 
place him in the midst of dangers, cut him off from 
human aid, let the grave open before him — then it 
is, in the time of his tribulation, that the scoffer and 
unbelieving man turns to God for help, feeling there 
is no other hope, or refuge, or safety, save in his pro- 
tecting arm. 

So did that benignant man speak to me of this life 
and of the life hereafter ; of the goodness and power 
of God, and of the vanity of earthly things, as we 
journeyed along the solitary road towards Bayou 

Wlien within some five miles of the plantation, we 
discovered a horseman at a distance, galloping tow- 
ards us. As he came near I saw that it was Tibeats ! 
He looked at me a moment, but did not address me, 
and turning about, rode along side by side with Ford. 
I trotted silently at their horses' heels, listing to their 
conversation. Ford informed him of my arrival in 
the Pine Woods three days before, of the sad plight I 
was in, and of the difficulties and dangers I had en- 

" Well," exclaimed Tibeats, omitting his usual oaths 
in the presence of Ford, " I never saw such running 

ir.d T^^^•:LVE years a slave. 

l.ef.)re. V\\ bet liim against a hundred dollars, lie'll 
beat any nigger in Louisiana. I offered John David 
Clieney twenty-five dollars to catch him, dead or alive, 
Dut he outran liis dogs in a fair race. Tliem Cheney 
dogs ain't mucli, after all. Dunwoodie's hour.ds 
woul<l liave had him down before he touched the pal- 
mettoes. Somehow tlie dogs got off the track, and we 
liad to give up tlie hunt. We rode the horses as far 
as we coukl, and tlien kept on foot till the water was 
tliree feet deep. The boys said he was drowned, sure. 
I allow I wanted a shot at him mightily. Ever since, 
I liave been riding up and down the bayou, but had'nt 
much liope of catching him — thought he was dead, 
sartin. Oh, he's a cuss to run — that nigger is !" 

In tliis way Tibeats ran on, describing his search in 
the swamp, the wonderful speed with which I had 
fled before the hounds, and when he had finished, 
Master Ford responded by saying, I had always been 
a willing and faithful boy with him ; that he was sor- 
ry we had such trouble ; that, according to Piatt's 
story, he had been inhumanly treated, and that he, 
Tibeats, was himself in fault. Using hatchets and 
broad-axes upon slaves was shameful, and should not 
be allowed, he remarked. "This is no way of dealing 
with them, when first brought into the country. It 
will have a pernicious influence, and set them all run- 
ning away. Tlie swamps will be full of them. A lit- 
tle kindness would be far more effectual in restraining 
then, aTid r<-idering them obedient, than the use of 
3adl7 veapons. Every planter on the bayou 



should frown upon such inliumanity. It is for the in- 
terest of all to do so. It is evident enough, Mr. Tib- 
eats, that jou and Piatt cannot live together. You 
dislike him, and would not hesitate to kill him, and 
knowing it, he will run from jou again through fear 
of his life. I^ow, Tibeats, jou must sell him, or hire 
him out, at least. Unless you do so, 1 shall take 
measures to get him out of your possession." 

In this spirit Ford addressed him the remainder of 
the distance. I opened not mj mouth. On reaching 
the plantation they entered the great house, while 1 
repaired to Eliza's cabin. The slaves were astonish- 
ed to find me there, on returning from the field, sup- 
posing I was drowned. Tliat night, again, they gath- 
ered about the cabin to listen to the story of my 
adventure. They took it for granted I would be whip- 
ped, and that it would be severe, the well-known pen- 
alty of running away being five hundred lashes. 

" Poor fellow," said Eliza, taking me by the hand, 
" it would have been better for you if you had drown- 
ed. You have a cruel master, and he will kill you 
yet, I am afraid." 

Lawson suggested that it might be, overseer Cha- 
pin would be appointed to inflict the punishment, in 
which case it would not be severe, whereupon Mary, 
Rachel, Bristol, and others hoped it would be Master 
Ford, and then it would be no whipping at all. They 
all pitied me and tried to console me, and were sad in 
view of the castigation that awaited me, except Ken- 
tucky John. There were no bounds to his laughter ; 


lie filled the cabin with cachinnations, holding his sides 
to prevent an explosion, and the cause of his noisy 
mirth was the idert of my outstripping the hounds. 
Somehow, he looked at the subject in a comical light. 
" I l'now\l dey would'nt cotch him, when he run cross 
de plantation. O, de lor', did'nt Piatt pick his feet 
right up, tho', hey ? When dem dogs got whar he 
was, he was'nt dar — haw, haw, haw ! O, de lor' a' 
mity !" — and then Kentucky John relapsed into an- 
other of his boisterous fits. 

Early the next morning, Tibeats left the plantation. 
In the course of the forenoon, while sauntering about 
the gin-house, a tall, good-looking man came to me, 
and inrpiired if I was Tibeats' boy, that youthful ap- 
pellation being applied indiscriminately to slaves 
even though they may have passed the number of 
three score years and ten. I took off my hat, and an- 
swered that I was. 

"How would you like to work for me?" he in- 

" Oh, I would like to, very much," said I, inspired 
with a sudden hope of getting away from Tibeats. 

" You worked under Myers at Peter Tanner's, didn't 
you ? " 

I replied I had, adding some complimentary re- 
marks that ]\rvers had made concerning me. 

" Well, boy," said he, " I have hired you of your 
master to work for me in the " Big Cane Brake," 
thirty-eight miles from here, down on Ked Kiver." 

This man was ^h\ Eldret, who lived below Ford's, 


■ on the same side of the bayou. I accompanied him 
to his plantation, and in the morning started with his 
slave Sam, and a wagon-load of- pro visions, drawn by 
four mules, for the Big Cane, Eldret and Myers hav- 
ing preceded us on horseback. This Sam was a na- 
tive of Charleston, where he had a mother, brother 
and sisters. He " allowed "— a common word among 
both black and white — that Tibeats was a mean man, 
and lioped, as I most earnestly did also, that his mas 
ter would buy me. 

We proceeded down the south shore of the bayou, 
crossing it at Carey's plantation ; from thence to Huff' 
Power, passing which, we came upon the Bayou 
Rouge road, which runs towards Red River. After 
passing through Bayou Rouge Swamp, and just at 
sunset, turning from the highway, we struck off into 
the " Big Cane Brake." We followed an unbeaten 
track, scarcely wide enough to admit the wagon. 
The cane, such as are used for fishing-rods, were as 
thick as they could stand. A person could not be 
seen through them the distance of a rod. Tlie paths 
of wild beasts run through them in various directions 
— the bear and the American tiger abounding in these 
brakes, and wherever there is a basin of stagnant wa- 
ter, it is full of alligators. 

We kept on our lonely course through the " Big 
Cane" several miles, when we entered a clearing, 
known as "Sutton's Field." Many years before, a 
man by the name of Sutton had penetrated the wilder- 
ness of cane to this solitary place. Tradition has it, 

].>4 TWET-vE yt:ars a slave. 

tliat lie fled tliitlier, a fugitive, not from service, but 
from justice. Here lie lived alone — recluse and lier- 
iiiit of the swamp — with his own hands planting the 
seed and gathering in the harvest. One day a band 
of Indians stole upon his solitude, and after a bloody 
battle, overpowered and massacred him. For miles 
the country round, in the slav^es' quarters, and on the 
piazzivs of " great houses," where white children listen 
to supei-stitious tales, the story goes, that that spot, in 
the heart of the " Big Cane," is a haunted place. For 
more than a quarter of a century, human voices had 
rarely, if ever, disturbed the silence of the clearing. 
Hank and noxious weeds had overspread the once cul- 
tivated field — serj^ents sunned themselves on the door- 
way of the crumbling cabin. It Avas indeed a dreary 
I)icture of desolation. 

Passing " Sutton's Field," wq followed a new^-cut 
road two miles farther, which brought us to its ter- 
mination. We had now reached the wild lands of 
Mr. Eldret, where he contemplated clearing up an 
extensive plantation. We went to work next morn- 
ing with our cane-knives, and cleared a sufficient 
sj)ace to allow the erection of two cabins — one for 
]^ryers and Eldi^et, the other for Sam, myself, and the 
Blaves that were to join us. We were now in the 
midst of trees of enormous growth, whose wide-spread- 
ing branches almost shut out the light of the sun, 
while the space between che trunks was an impervi- 
ous mass of cujie, with here and there an occasional 


The bay and the sycamore, the oak and the cypress, 
reach a growth unparalleled, in those fertile lowlands 
bordering the Red RVer. From every tree, moreover, 
hang long, large masses of moss, presenting to the eye 
unaccustomed to them, a striking and singular appear- 
ance. This moss, in large quantities, is sent north, 
and there used for manufacturing purposes. 

We cut down oaks, split them into rails, and with 
these erected temporary cabins. We covered the 
roofs with the broad palmetto leaf, an excellent sub 
stitute for shingles, as long as they last. 

The greatest annoyance I met with here were small 
flies, gnats and mosquitoes. They swarmed the air. 
They penetrated the porches of the ear, the nose, the 
eyes, the mouth. They sucked themselves beneatli 
the skin. It was impossible to brush or beat them 
oif. It seemed, indeed, as if they would devour us — 
carry us away piecemeal, in their small tormenting 

A lonelier spot, or one more disagreeable, than the 
centre of the " Big Cane Brake," it would be difficult 
to conceive ; yet to me it was a paradise, in compari- 
fion with any other place in the company of Master 
Tibeats. I labored hard, and oft-times was weary and 
fatigued, yet I could lie down at night in peace, and 
arise in the morning without fear. 

In the course of a fortnight, four black girls came 
down from Eldret's plantation — Charlotte, Fanny, 
Cresia and ]N"elly. Tliey were all large and stout. 
Axes were put into their liands, and they were sent 


out \virli Sam and myself to cut trees. Tliej were 
excellent choppers, the largest oak or sycamore stand- 
ing but a brief season before their heavy and well- 
directed blows. At piling logs, they were equal to 
any man. There are lumberwomen as well as lum- 
bermen in the forests of the South. In fact, in the 
region of the Bayou Bceuf they perform their share of 
all the labor required on the plantation. They plough, 
drag, drive team, clear wild lands, work on the high- 
way, and so forth. Some planters, owning large cot- 
ton and sugar plantations, have none other than the 
labor of slave women. Such an one is Jim Burns, 
who lives on the north shore of the bayou, opposite 
the plantation of John Fogaman. 

On our arrival in the brake, Eldret promised me, 
if I worked well, I might go up to visit my friends at 
Ford's in four weeks. On Saturday night of the fifth 
week, I reminded him of his promise, when he told 
me I had done so well, that I might go. I had set 
my heart upon it, and Eldret's announcement thrilled 
me with pleasure. I was to return in time to com- 
mence the labors of the day on Tuesday morning. 

AVhile indulging the pleasant anticipation of so soon 
meeting my old friends again, suddenly the hateful 
fnrm of Tibeats appeared among us. He inquired 
hfw ]\ryei-s and Piatt got along together, and was 
told, very well, and that Piatt was going up to Ford's 
plantation in the morning on a visit. 

'' Poh, i)oh ! " sneered Tibeats ; " it isn't worth while 
— the nigger will get unsteady. He can't go." 


But Eldret insisted I had worked faithfully — that 
he had given me his promise, and thatf under the cir- 
cumstances, I ought not to be disappointed. Tliey 
then, it being about dark, entered one cabin and 1 
the other. I could not give up the idea of going ; it 
was a sore disappointment. Before morning I resolved, 
if Eldret made no objection, to leave, at all hazards. 
At daylight I was at his door, with my blanket rolled 
up into a bundle, and hanging on a stick over my 
shoulder, waiting for a pass. Tibeats came out pre- 
sently in one of his disagreeable moods, washed his 
face, and going to a stump near by, sat down upon it, 
apparently busily thinking with himself. After stand- 
ing there a long time, impelled by a sudden impulse 
of impatience, I started off. 

" Are you going without a pass ? " he cried out 
to me. 

" Yes, master, I thought I would," I answered. 

" How do you think you'll get there ? " demanded 

" Don't know," was all the reply I made him. 

" You'd be taken and sent to jail, where you ought 
to be, before you got half-way tliere," he added, pass- 
ing into the cabin as he said it. He came out sooi? 
with the pass in his hand, and calling me a " d — d nig- 
ger that deserved a hundred lashes," threw it on the 
ground. I picked it up, and hurried away right 

A slave caught olf his master's plantation without 
ii jiass, may b( seized and whipi^5cd by any white man 


whom lie meets. The one I now received was dated, 
and read as fallows : 

" Piatt has permission to go to Ford's plantation, 
on JBayou Boeuf, and return by Tuesday morning. 

John M. Tibeats." 

Tliis is the usual form. On the way, a great many 
demanded it, read it, and passed on. Those having 
the air and appearance of gentlemen, whose dress 
indicated the possession of wealth, frequently took no 
notice of me whatever ; but a shabby fellow, an un- 
mistakable loafer, never failed to hail me, and to 
scrutinize and examine me in the most thorough man- 
ner. Catching runaways is sometimes a money-mak- 
ing business. If, after advertising, no owner appears, 
they may be sold to the highest bidder ; and certain 
fees are allowed the finder for his services, at all 
events, even if reclaimed. "A mean white," there- 
fore, — a name applied to the species loafer — con- 
siders it a god-send to meet an unknown negro with- 
out a pass. 

There are no inns along the highways in that por- 
tion of the State where I sojourned. I was wholly 
destitute of money, neither did I carry any provisions, 
on my journey from the Big Cane to Bayou Boeuf; 
nevertheless, with his pass in his hand, a slave need 
never suffer from hunger or from thirst. It is only 
necessary to present it to the master or overseer of a 
j^lantation, and state his wants, when he will be sent 
round to the kitchen and provided with food or shel- 
ter, as the case may require. The ti-aveler stops at 


any house and calls for a meal with as much freedom 
as if it was a public tavern. It is the general custom 
of the country. Whatever their faults may be, it is 
certain the inhabitants along Eed Eiver, and around 
the bayous in the interior of Louisiana are not want- 
ing in hospitality. 

I arrived at Ford's plantation towards the close of 
the afternoon, passing the evening in Eliza's cabin, 
with Lawson, Rachel, and others of my acquaintance. 
When we left Washington Eliza's form was round and 
plump. She stood erect, and in her silks and jewels, 
presented a picture of graceful strength and elegance. 
IS'ow she was but a thin shadow of her former self. 
Her face had become ghastly haggard, and the once 
straight and active form was bowed down, as if bear- 
ing the weight of a hundred years. Crouching on her 
cabin floor, and clad in the coarse garments of a slave, 
old Elisha Berry would not have recognized the moth- 
er of his child. I never saw her afterwards. Having 
become useless in the cotton-field, she was bartered 
for a trifle, to some man residing in the vicinity of 
Peter Compton's. Grief had gnawed remorselessly at 
her heart, until her strength was gone ; and for that, 
her last master, it is said, lashed and abused her most 
unmercifully. But he could not whip back the de- 
parted vigor of her youth, nor straighten up that bend- 
ed body to its full height, such as it was when her 
children were around her, and the light of freedom 
was shining on her path. 

I learned the particulars relative to her dej^arture 


from tliis world, from some of Compton's slaves, ;wlio 
had come over Red Eiver to tlie bayou, to assist 
young Madam Tanner during the "busy season." 
She became at length, they said, utterly helpless, for 
several weeks lying on the ground floor in a dilapida- 
ted cabin, dependent upon the mercy of her fellow 
thralls for an occasional drop of water, and a morsel 
of food. Her master did not " knock her on the 
head," as is sometimes done to put a suffering animal 
out of misery, but left her unprovided for, and unpro- 
tected, to linger through a life of pain and wretched- 
ness to its natural close. When the hands returned 
from the field one night they found her dead ! Du- 
ring the day, the Angel of the Lord, who moveth in- 
visibly over all the earth, gathering in his harvest of 
departing souls, had silently entered the cabin of the 
dying woman, and taken her from thence. She was 
free at last ! 

Next day, rolling up my blanket, I started on my 
return to the Big Cane. After traveling five miles, 
at a place called Huff Power, the ever-present Tibe- 
ats met me in the road. He inquired why I was go- 
ing back so soon, and when informed I was anxious 
to return by the time I was directed, he said I need 
go no fartlier tlian the next plantation, as he had that 
day sold me to Edwin Epps. We walked down into 
the yard, where we met the latter gentleman, who ex- 
amined me, and asked me the usual questions pro- 
pounded by purchasers. Having been duly delivered 
uvur, I was urdd'cd to the quarters, and at the same 


time directed to make a lioe and axe handle for my- 

I was now no longer tlie property of Tibeats — his 
dog, his brute, dreading his wrath and cruelty day 
and night ; and whoever or whatever my new master 
might prove to be, I could not, certainly, regret the 
change. So it was good news when the sale was an- 
nounced, and with a sigh of relief I sat down for the 
first time in my new abode. 

Tibeats soon after disappeared from that section of 
the country. Once afterwards, and only once, I 
caught a glimpse of him. It was many miles from 
Bayou Boeuf. He was seated in the doorway of a 
low groggery. I was passing, in a drove of slaves, 
through St. Ma^r's parish. 










ED^VTN Epps, of whom inncli will be said during 
tlie reiniiindur of tins history, is a large, portly, lieavy- 
bodied man with light hair, high cheek bones, and a 
Itomau nose of extraordinary dimensions. He has 
l)hie eyes, a itiir complexion, and is, as I should say, 
full six feet high. He has the sharp, inquisitive ex- 
])ression of a jockey. His manners are repulsive 
and coarse, and his language giv-es speedy and une- 
(piivocal evidence that he has never enjoyed the ad- 
vantages of an education. He has the faculty of 
saying most provoking things, in that respect even 
excelling ohl Peter Tanner. At the time I came into 
his possession, Edwin Epps was fond of the bottle, his 


" sprees" sometimes extending over the space of two 
whole weeks. Latterly, however, he had reformed 
his habits, and when I left him, was as strict a speci- 
men of temperance as could be found on Bayou 
Bceuf. When " in his cups," Master Epps was a roys- 
tering, blustering, noisy fellow, whose chief delight 
was in dancing with his " niggers," or lashing them 
about the yard w^ith his long whip, just for the pleas- 
ure of hearing them screech and scream, as the great 
welts were planted on their backs. When sober, he 
was silent, reserved and cunning, not beating us in- 
discriminately, as in his drunken moments, but send- 
ing the end of his rawhide to some tender spot of a 
lagging slave, with a sly dexterity peculiar to himself. 

He had been a driver and overseer in his younger 
years, but at this time was in j)ossession of a planta- 
tion on Bayou Huff Power, two and a half miles from 
Holmesville, eighteen from Marksville, and twelve 
from Cheney ville. It belonged to Joseph B. Koberts, 
his wife's uncle, and was leased by Ej^ps. His prin- 
cipal business was raising cotton, and inasmuch as 
some may read this book who have never seen a cot- 
ton field, a description of the manner of its culture 
may not be out of place. 

The ground is prepared by throwing up beds oi 
ridges, with the plough — back-furrowing, it is called. 
Oxen and mules, the latter almost exclusively, are 
used in ploughing. The women as frequently as the 
men perform this labor, feeding, currying, and ta- 
king care of their teams, and in all respects doing the 


JieUl and stable work, prer-iselj as do tlie ploiiglibojs 
of the Xortli. 

The beds, or ridges, are six feet wide, that is, from 
water furrow to water furrow. A plough drawn by 
one mule is then run along the top of the ridge or 
center of the bed, making the drill, into which a girl 
usually drops the seed, which she carries in a bag 
hung round her neck. Behind her comes a mule 
and harrow, covering up the seed, so that two mules, 
tliree slaves, a plough and harrow, are employed 
in i)lanting a row of cotton. This is done in the 
nifinths of March and April. Corn is planted in Feb- 
ruaiy. When there are no cold rains, the cotton usu- 
ally makes its appearance in a week. In the course 
of eight or ten days afterwards the first hoeing is 
commenced. This is performed in part, also, by the 
aid of the plough and mule. Tlie plough passes as 
near as possible to the cotton on both sides, throw- 
ing the furrow from it. Slaves follow with their hoes, 
cutting up the grass and cotton, leaving hills two feet 
and a half apart. This is called scraping cotton. In 
two weeks more .commences the second hoeinor. 
Tliis time the furrow is thrown towards the cotton. 
C)nly one stalk, the largest, is now left standing in 
each liill. In another fortnight it is hoed the third 
time, throwing the furrow towards the cotton in the 
same manner as before, and killing all the grass be- 
tween the rows. About the first of July, when it is 
a foot high or thereabouts, it is hoed the fourth and 
last time. ]S"ow the whole space between the rows 

corroN GKowiNG. 16n 

is plouglied, leaving a deep water furrow in the center. 
During all these hoeings the overseer or driver 
follows the slaves on horseback with a whip, such as 
has been described. Tlie fastest hoer takes the lead 
row. He is usually about a rod in advance of his 
companions. If one of them passes him, he is whip- 
ped. If one falls behind or is a moment idle, he is 
whipped. In fact, the lash is flying from morning 
until night, the whole day long. The hoeing season 
thus continues from April until July, a field having 
no sooner been finished once, than it is commenced 

In the latter part of August begins the cotton pick- 
ing season. At this time each slave is presented 
with a sack. A strap is fastened to it, which goes 
over the neck, holding the mouth of the sack breast 
high, while the bottom reaches nearly to the ground. 
Each one is also presented with a large basket that 
will hold about two barrels. This is to put the cotton 
in when the sack is filled. The baskets are carried 
to the field and placed at the beginning of the rows. 

"When a new hand, one unaccustomed to the busi- 
ness, is sent for the first time into the field, he is 
whipped np smartly, and made for that day to pick 
as fast as he can possibly. At night it is weighed, 
so that his capability in cotton picking is known. 
He must bring in the same weight each night follow- 
ing. If it falls short, it is considered evidence that 
he has been laggard, and a greater or less number 
of lashes is the penalty. 

IC)S t\vt-:lve years a slave. 

An ordinary day's work is two hundred pounds, 
A slave who is accustomed to picking, is punished, 
if he or slie brings in a less quantity than that. 
1 here is a great difference among them as regards 
tin's kind of labor. Some of them seem to have a 
natural knack, or quickness, which enables them to 
pick with great celerity, and with both hands, while 
others, with whatever practice or industry, are utterly 
unable to come up to the ordinary standard. Such 
hands are taken from the cotton field and employed 
in other business. Patsey, of whom I shall have 
more to say, was known as the most remarkable cot- 
ton picker on Bayou Boeuf. She picked with both 
hands and with such surprising rapidity, that five 
hundred pounds a day was not unusual for her. 

Each one is tasked, therefore, according to his 
picking abilities, none, however, to come short of two 
hundred weight. I, being unskillful always in that 
business, would have satisfied my master by bringing 
in the latter quantity, while on the other hand, Pat- 
sey would surely have been beaten if she failed to 
]»roduce twice as much. 

Tlie cotton grows from five to seven feet high, each 
stalk having a great many branches, shooting out in 
all directions, and lapping each other above the wa- 
ter furrow. 

lliere are few sights more pleasant to the eye, 
than a wide cotton field when it is in the bloom. It 
presents an api)earance of purity, like an immaculate 
expanse of light, new-fallen snow. 


Sometimes the slave picks down one side of a row, 
and back upon the other, but more nsuallj, there is 
one on either side, gathering all that has blossomed, 
leaving the unopened bolls for a succeeding picking. 
When the sack is filled, it is emptied into the basket and 
trodden down. It is necessary to be extremely care- 
ful the first time going through the field, in order not 
to break the branches oft* the stalks. The cotton 
will not bloom upon a broken branch. Epps never 
failed to inflict the severest chastisement on the un- 
lucky servant who, either carelessly or unavoidably, 
was guilty in the least degree in this respect. 

The hands are required to be in the cotton field as 
soon as it is light in the morning, and, with the ex- 
ception of ten or fifteen minutes, which is given them 
at noon to swallow their allowance of cold bacon, 
they are not permitted to be a moment idle until it 
is too dark to see, and when the moon is full, they 
often times labor till the middle of the night. They 
do not dare to stop even at dinner time, nor return 
to the quarters, however late it be, until the order to 
halt is given by the driver. 

The day's work over in the field, the baskets are 
" toted," or in other words, carried to the gin-house, 
where the cotton is weighed. No matter how fa- 
tigued and weary he may be — no matter how much 
belongs for sleep and rest — a slave never approaches 
the gin-house with his basket of cotton but with fear. 
If it falls short in weight — if he has not performed 
the full task appointed him, he knows tliut he must 


suffer. And if he lias exceeded it by ten or twenty 
pounds, in all probability his master will measure the 
next day's task accordingly. So, whether he has too 
little or too much, his approach to the gin-house is 
always with fear and trembling. Most frequently 
they have too little, and therefore it is they are not 
anxious to leave the Held. After weighing, follow the 
whippings ; and then the baskets are carried to the 
cotton house, and their contents stored away like hay, 
all hands being sent in to tramp it down. K the cot- 
ton is not dry, instead of taking it to the gin-house 
at once, it is laid upon platforms, two feet high, and 
some three times as wdde, covered with boards or 
plank, with narrow walks running between them. 

This done, the labor of the day is not yet ended, by 
any means. Each one must then attend to his re- 
sj^ective chores. One feeds the mules, another the 
Bwine — another cuts the wood, and so forth ; besides, 
tlie packing is all done by candle light. Finally, at 
a late hour, they reach the quarters, sleepy and over- 
come with the long day's toil. Then a fire must be 
kindled in the cabin, the corn ground in the small 
liand-mill, and supper, and dinner for the next day in 
tlie field, prepared. All that is allowed them is corn 
and bacon, which is given out at the corncrib and 
smoke-house every Sunday morning. Each one re- 
ceives, as his weekly allowance, three and a half 
pounds of bacon, and corn enough to make a peck of 
meal. That is all — no tea, coff'ee, sugar, and with 
the exception of a very scanty sprinkling now and 

then, uo salt. I can say, from a ten years' residence 
with Master Epps, that no slave of his is ever likely 
to suffer from the gout, superinduced by excessive 
high living. Master Epps' hogs were fed on shelled 
corn — it was thrown out to his "niggers" in the 
ear. The former, he thought, would fatten faster by 
shelling, and soaking it in the water — the latter, 
perhaps, if treated in the same manner, might grow 
too fat to labor. Master Epps was a shrewd cal- 
culator, and knew how to manage his own animals, 
drunk or sober. 

The corn mill stands in the yard beneath a shelter. 
It is like a common coffee mill, the hopper holding 
about six quarts. There was one privilege which 
Master Epps granted freely to every slave he had. 
They might grind their corn nightly, in such small 
quantities as their daily wants required, or they 
might grind the whole week's allowance at one time, 
on Sundays, just as they preferred. A very gener- 
ous man was Master Epps ! 

I kept my corn in a small wooden box, the meal in 
a gourd ; and, by the way, the gourd is one of the 
most convenient and necessary utensils on a planta- 
tion. Besides supplying the place of all kinds of 
crockery in a slave cabin, it is used for carrying 
water to the fields. Another, also, contains the din- 
ner. It dispenses with the necessity of pails, dippers, 
basins, and such tin and wooden superfluities alto- 

When the corn is ground, and fire U made, the 


bacon is taken down from the nail on which it hangs, 
a slice cut off and thrown upon the coals to broil. 
The majority of slaves have no knife, much less a 
fork. They cut their bacon with the axe at the wood- 
pile. The com meal is mixed with a little water 
placed in the fire, and baked. When it is "done 
brown," the ashes are scraped off, and being placed 
upon a chip, which answers for a table, the tenant of 
the slave hut is ready to sit down upon the ground to 
supper. By this time it is usually midnight. The 
same fear of punishment with which they approach 
the gin-house, possesses them again on lying down to 
get a snatch of rest. It is the fear of oversleeping in 
the morning. Such an offence would certainly be 
attended with not less than twenty lashes. With a 
prayer that he may be on his feet and wide awake at 
the first sound of the horn, he sinks to his slumbers 

The softest couches in the world are not to be found 
in the log mansion of the slave. The one whereon I 
reclined year after year, was a plank twelve inches 
wide and ten feet long. My pillow was a stick of 
wood. The bedding was a coarse blanket, and not a 
rag or shred beside. Moss might be used, were it not 
that it directly breeds a swarm of fieas. 

The cabin is constructed of logs, without floor or 
window. The latter is altogether unnecessary, the 
crevices between the logs admitting sufficient light. 
In stormy weather the rain drives through them, 
rendering it comfortless and extremely disagreeable. 

THE slave's labors. 171 

The rude door hangs on great wooden hinges. In one 
end is constructed an awkward fire-place. 

An hour before day light the horn is blown. Then 
the slaves arouse, prepare their breakfast, fill a gourd 
with water, in another deposit their dinner of cold 
bacon and corn cake, and hurry to the field again. 
It is an oflfence invariably followed by a fiogging, to 
be found at the quarters after daybreak. Then the 
fears and labors of another day begin ; and until its 
close there is no such thing as rest. He fears he will 
be caught lagging through the day; he fears to 
approach the gin-house with his basket-load of cotton 
at night ; he fears, when he lies down, that he will 
oversleep himself in the morning. Such is a true, 
faithful, unexaggerated picture and description of 
the slave's daily life, during the time of cotton-pick- 
ing, on the shores of Bayou Boeuf. 

In the month of January, generally, the fourth and 
last picking is completed. Then commences the har- 
vesting of corn. This is considered a secondary crop, 
and receives far less attention than the cotton. It is 
planted, as already mentioned, in February. Corn is 
grown in that region for the purpose of fattening 
hogs and feeding slaves ; very little, if any, being sent 
to market. It is the white variety, the ear of great 
size, and the stalk growing to the height of eight, 
and often times ten feet. In August the leaves are 
otripped off, dried in the sun, bound in small bundles, 
and stored away as provender for the mules and oxen. 
After this the slaves go through the field, turning 


down tlic car, lor tlie purpose of keeping the rains 
fn Pin penetrating to the grain. It is left in this condi- 
tion until after cotton-picking is over, whether earlier 
or later. Then the ears are separated from the stalks, 
and deposited in the corncrib with the husks on; 
otherwise, stripped of the husks, the weevil would 
destroy it. The stalks are left standing in the field. 

T\\e Carolina, or sweet potato, is also grown in that 
region to some extent. They are not fed, however, 
to hogs or cattle, and are considered but of small im- 
I)ortance. They are preserved by placing them upon 
tlie surface of the ground, with a slight covering of 
earth or cornstalks. Tliere is not a cellar on Bayou 
Bceuf. The ground is so low it would fill with water. 
Potatoes are worth from two to three "bits," or 
shillings a barrel ; corn, except when there is an 
unusual scarcity, can be purchased at the same rate. 

As soon as the cotton and com crops are secured, 
the stalks are pulled up, thrown into piles and burned. 
The ploughs are started at the same time, throwing 
up the beds again, preparatory to another planting, 
llie soil, in the parishes of Eapides and Avoyelles, 
and throughout the whole country, so far as my obser- 
vation extended, is of exceeding richness and fertility. 
It is a kind of marl, of a brown or reddish color. It 
does not require those invigorating composts neces- 
sary to more barren lands, and on the same field the 
i^iune crop is grown for many successive years. 

J'loughing, planting, picking cotton, gathering the 
com, and pulling and burning stalks, occupies the 


whole of the four seasons of the year. Drawing and 
cutting wood, pressing cotton, fattening and killing 
hogs, are but incidental labors. 

In the month of September or October, the hogs 
are run out of the swamps by dogs, and confined in 
pens. On a cold morning, generally about New 
Year's day, they are slaughtered. Each carcass is 
cut into six parts, and piled one above the other in 
salt, upon large tables in the smoke-house. In this 
condition it remains a fortnight, when it is hung up, 
and a fire built, and continued more than half the 
time during the remainder of the year. This thorough 
smoking is necessary to prevent the bacon from be- 
coming infested with worms. In so warm a climate 
it is difficult to preserve it, and very many times my 
self and my companions have received our weekly 
allowance of three pounds and a half, when it was 
full of these disgusting vermin. 

Although the swamps are overrun with cattle, they 
are never made the source of profit, to any considera- 
ble extent. The planter cuts his mark upon the ear, 
or brands his initials upon the side, and turns them 
into the swamps, to roam unrestricted within their 
almost limitless confines. They are the Spanish breed, 
small and spike-horned. I have known of droves 
being taken from Bayou Bceuf, but it is of very rare 
occurrence. The value of the best cows is about five 
dollars each. Two quarts at one milking, would be 
considered an unusual large quantity. Tliey furnish 
little tallow, and that of a soft, inferior quality. jS"ot 


withstanding tlie great number of cows that throng 
the swamps, the planters are indebted to the IN'orth 
for their cheese and butter, which is purchased in the 
New-Orleans market. Salted beef is not an article of 
food either in the great house, or in the cabin. 

Master Epps was accustomed to attend shooting 
matches for the purpose of obtaining what fresh beef 
he required. These sports occurred weekly at the 
neia'hborincr villafire of Ilolmesville. Fat beeves are 
driven thither and shot at, a stipulated price being 
demanded for the privilege. The lucky marksman 
divides the flesh among his fellows, and in this man- 
ner the attending planters are supplied. 

The great number of tame and imtamed cattle 
which swarm the woods and swamps of Bayou Boeuf, 
most probably suggested that appellation to the 
French, inasmuch as the term, translated, signifies the 
creek or river of the wild ox. 

Garden products, such as cabbages, turnips and the 
like, are cultivated for the use of the master and his 
family. They have greens and vegetables at all times 
and seasons of the year. "Tlie grass withereth and 
the flower fadeth" before the desolating winds of au- 


tumn in the chill northern latitudes, but perpetual 
verdure overspreads the hot lowlands, and flowers 
bloom in the heart of winter, in the region of Bayou 

Tliere are no meadows appropriated to the cultiva- 
tion of the grasses. The leaves of the corn supply a 
Bufliciency of food for the laboring cattle, while the 


rest provide for themselves all the year in the ever- 
growing pasture. 

There are many other peculiarities of climate, 
habit, custom, and of the manner of living and labor- 
ing at the South, but the foregoing, it is supposed, 
will give the reader an insight and general idea of 
life on a cotton plantation in Louisiana. The mode 
of cultivating can<j, and the process of sugar manu 
facturing, will be yixentioned in another place. 













Ox mj arrival at Master Epps', in obedience to Ms 
order, the fii-st business upon which I entered was iho 
making of an axe-helve. The handles in use there 
are simply a round, straight stick. I made a crooked 
one, shaped like those to which I had been accustom- 
ed at the :N'orth. When finished, and presented to 
Epps, he looked at it with astonishment, imable to 
determine exactly what it was. He had never before 
Been such a handle, and when I explained its conveni- 
ences, he was forcibly struck with the novelty of the 
idea. He kept it in the house a long time, and when his 
fnends called, was wont to exhibit it as a curiosity. 

It was now the season of lioeing. I was first sept 


into tlie corn-field, and afterwards set to scraping cot- 
ton. In this employment I remained until hoeing 
time was nearly passed, when I began to experience 
the symptoms of approaching illness. I was attacked 
with chills, which were succeeded by a burning fever. 
I became weak and emaciated, and frequently so diz- 
zy that it caused me to reel and stagger like a drunk- 
en man. Nevertheless, I was compelled to keep up 
my row. When in health I found little difficulty in 
keeping pace with my fellow-laborers, but now it 
seemed to be an utter impossibility. Often I fell be- 
hind, when the driver's lash was sure to greet my 
back, infusing into my sick and drooping body a little 
temporary energy. I continued to decline until at 
length the whip became entirely ineffectual. The 
sharpest sting of the rawhide could not arouse me. 
Finally, in September, when the busy season of cotton 
picking was at hand, I was unable to leave my cabin. 
Up to this time I had received no medicine, nor any 
attention from my master or mistress. The old cook 
visited me occasionally, preparing me corn-coffee, and 
sometimes boiling a bit of bacon, when I had grown 
too feeble to accomplish it myself. 

"Wlien it was said that I would die, Master Epps, 
unwilling to bear the loss, which the death of an ani- 
mal worth a thousand dollars would bring upon him, 
concluded to incur the expense of sending to Holmes- 
ville for Dr. "Wines. He announced to Epps that it 
was the effect of the climate, and there was a proba- 
bility of his losing me. He directed me to eat no 

H* 12 


Ttieat, and to partake of no more food than was abso- 
lutely necessary to sustain life. Several weeks elaps- 
ed, during which time, under the scanty diet to which 
I was subjected, I had partially recovered. One 
morning, long before I was in a proper condition to 
labor, Epps appeared at the cabin door, and, present- 
inir me a sack, ordered me to the cotton field. At this 
time I had had no experience whatever in cotton pick- 
injr. It was an awkward business indeed. While 
others used both hands, snatching the cotton and de- 
positing it in the mouth of the sack, with a precision 
and dexterity that was incomprehensible to me, I 
had to seize the boll with one hand, and deliberately 
draw out the white, gushing blossom with the other. 
Depositing the cotton in the sack, moreover, was a 
difficulty that demanded the exercise of both hands 
and eyes. I was compelled to pick it from the ground 
where it would fall, nearly as often as from the stalk 
where it liad grown. I made havoc also with the 
branches, loaded wjth the yet unbroken bolls, the 
long, cumbersome sack swinging from side to side in 
a manner not allowable in the cotton field. After a 
most laborious day I arrived at the gin-house with my 
load. When the scale determined its weigrht to be 
only ninety-five pounds, not half the quantity required 
of the poorest picker, Epps threatened the severest 
flogging, but in consideration of my being a " raw 
hand," concluded to pardon me on that occasion 
The following day, and many days succeeding, I re- 
turned at niglit with no better success — I was evi- 


dently not designed for that kind of labor. I had nol. 
the gift — the dexterous fingers and quick motion of 
Patsej, who coukl fly along one side of a row of cot- 
ton, stripping it of its undefiled and fleecy whiteness 
miraculously fast. Practice and whipping were alike 
unavailing, and Epps, satisfied of it at last, swore I was 
a disgrace — that I was not fit to associate with a cot- 
ton-picking "nigger" — 'that I could not pick enough 
in a day to pay the trouble of weighing it, and that I 
should go into the cotton field no more. I was now 
employed in cutting and hauling wood, drawing cot- 
ton from tlie field to the gin-house, and performed 
whatever other service was required. Suffice to say, 
I was never permitted to be idle. 

It was rarely that a day passed by without one or 
more whippings. Tliis occurred at the time the cot- 
ton was weighed. The delinquent, whose weight had 
fallen short, was taken out, stripped, made to lie upon 
the ground, face downwards, when he received a pun- 
ishment proportioned to his offence. It is the literal, 
unvarnished truth, that the crack of the lash, and 
the shrieking of the slaves, can be heard from dark 
till bed time, on Epps' plantation, any day almost 
during the entire period of the cotton-picking season. 

The number of lashes is graduated according to the 
nature of the case. Twenty-five are deemed a mere 
brush, inflicted, for instance, when a dry leaf or piece 
of boll is found in the cotton, or when a branch is 
broken in the field ; fifty is the ordinary penalty fol- 
lowing all delinquencies of the next higher grade ; one 


hundred is called severe : it is the punis-liment inflict- 
ed for the serious oifence of standing idle in the field ; 
from one hundred and fifty to two hundred is bestow- 
ed ui)on him who quarrels with his cabin-mates, and 
five liundred, well laid on, besides the mangling of 
the dogs, perhaps, is certain to consign the poor, un- 
pitied runa^^aJ to weeks of pain and agony. 

During the two years Epps remained on tlie plan- 
tation at Bayou Hufi" Power, he was in the habit, as 
often as once in a fortnight at least, of coming home 
intoxicated from Holmesville. Tlie shooting-matches 
almost invariably concluded with a debauch. At such 
times he was boisterous and half-crazy. Often he 
would break the dishes, chairs, and whatever furni- 
ture he could lay his hands on. When satisfied with 
his amusement in the house, he would seize the whip 
and walk forth into the yard. Tlien it behooved the 
slaves to be watchful and exceeding wary. The first 
one who came within reach felt the smart of his lash. 
Sometimes for hours he would keep them running in 
all directions, dodging around the corners of the cab 
ins. Occasionally he would come upon one unawares, 
and if he succeeded in inflicting a fair, round blow, it 
was a feat that much delighted him. Tlie younger 
children, and the aged, who had become inactive, 
suifered then. In the midst of the confusion he would 
slily take his stand behind a cabin, waiting with rais- 
ed whip, to dash it into the first black face that peep- 
ed cautiously around the corner. 

At otiicr times he would come home in a less brutal 


humor. Tlien there must be a meny -making. Ther 
all must move to the measure of a tune. Then Mas 
ter Epps must needs regale his melodious ears with 
the music of a fiddle. Then did he become buoyant, 
elastic, gaily " tripping the light fantastic toe" around 
the piazza and all through the house. 

TIbeats, at the time of my sale, had informed 
him I could play on the violin. He had receiv- 
ed his Information from Ford. Tlirough the im- 
portunities of Mistress Epps, her husband had been In 
duced to purchase me one during a visit to Kew-Or 
leans. Frequently I was called Into the house to play 
before the family, mistress being passionately fond of 

All of us would be assembled In the large room of 
the great house, whenever Epps came home In one of 
his dancing moods. No matter how worn out and 
tired we were, there must be a general dance. When 
properly stationed on the floor, I would strike up a tune. 

"Dance, you d — d niggers, dance," Epps would 

Then there must be no halting or delay, no slow or 
languid movements ; all must be brisk, and lively, 
and alert. " Up and down, heel and toe, and away 
we go," was the order of the hour. Epps' portly form 
mingled with those of his dusky slaves, moving rap- 
idly through all the mazes of the dance. 

Usually his whip was in his hand, ready to fixll 
about the ears of the presumptuous thrall, who dared 
to rest a moment, or even stop to catch his breath. 


When he was himself exliausted, there would be a 
brief cessation, but it would be very brief. With a 
slash, and crack, and flourish of the whip, he would 
shout again, " Dance, niggers, dance," and away they 
would go once more, pell-mell, while L spurred by an 
occasional sharp touch of the lash, sat in a corner, ex 
tracting from my violin a marvelous quick-stepping 
tune. The mistress often upbraided him, declaring 
she would return to her father's house at Cheney ville ; 
nevertheless, there were times she could not restrain 
a burst of laughter, on witnessing his uproarious 
pranks. Frequently, we were thus detained until al- 
most morning. Bent with excessive toil — actually 
suffering for a little refreshing rest, and feeling rather 
as if we could cast ourselves upon the earth and weep, 
many a night in the house of Edwin Epps have his 
unhappy slaves been made to dance and laugh. 

Notwithstanding these deprivations in order to grat- 
ify tlie whim of an unreasonable master, we had to 
be in the field as soon as it was light, and during the 
day perform the ordinary and accustomed task. Such 
de])rivations could not be urged at the scales in exten- 
uation of any lack of weight, or in the cornfield for 
not hoeing with the usual rapidity. The wdiippings 
were just as severe as if we had gone forth in the 
morning, strengthened and invigorated by a night's 
repose. Indeed, after such frantic revels, he was 
always more sour and savage than before, punishing 
for slighter causes, and using the whip with increased 
and more vindictive enern^y. 


Ten years I toiled for that man without reward. 
Ten years of my incessant labor has contributed to 
increase the bulk of his possessions. Ten years I was 
compelled to address him with down-cast eyes and 
uncovered head — in the attitude and language of a 
slave. I am indebted to him for nothing, save unde- 
served abuse and stripes. 

Beyond the reach of his inhuman thong, and stand- 
ing on the soil of the free State where I was born, 
thanks be to Heaven, I can raise my head once more 
among men. I can speak of the wrongs I have suf- 
fered, and of those who inflicted them, with upraised 
eyes. But I have no desire to speak of him or any 
other one otherwise than truthfully. Yet to speak 
truthfully of Edwin Epps would be to say — he is a 
man in whose heart the quality of kindness or of jus- 
tice is not found. A rough, rude energy, united with 
an uncultivated mind and an avaricious spirit, are his 
prominent characteristics. He is known as a " nigger 
breaker," distinguished for his faculty of subduing the 
spirit of the slave, and priding himself upon his repu- 
tation in this respect, as a jockey boasts of his skill in 
managing a refractory horse. " He looked upon a col- 
ored man, not as a human being, responsible to his Crea- 
tor for the small talent entrusted to him, but as a " chat- 
tel personal," as mere live property, no better, except 
in value, than his mule or dog. When the evidence, 
clear and indisputable, was laid before him that I was 
a free man, and as much entitled to my liberty as he 
— when, on the day I left, he was informed that I 


liad a wife and children, as dear to me as his own 
Inibes to liini, he only raved and swore, denouncing 
the law that tore me from him, and declaring he 
would iind out the man who had forwarded the letter 
that disclosed the phice of my captivity, if there was 
any virtue or power in money, and would take his 
life. He thought of nothing but his loss, and cursed 
me for having been born free. He could have stood 
unmoved and seen the tongues of his poor slaves 
torn out by the roots — he could have seen them 
burned to ashes over a slow fire, or gnawed to death 
by dogs, if it only brought him profit. Such a hard, 
cruel, unjust man is Edwin Epps. 

There was but one greater savage on Bayou Boeuf 
than he. Jim Burns' plantation was cultivated, as 
already mentioned, exclusively by women. That 
barbarian kept tlieir backs so sore and raw, that they 
could not perform the customary labor demanded 
daily of the slave. He boasted of his cruelty, and 
through all the country round was accounted a more 
thorougli-going, energetic man than even Epps. A 
brute himself, Jim Burns had not a particle of mercy 
for liis subject brutes, and, like a fool, whipped and 
scourged away the very strengtli upon which depend 
ed his amount of c;ain. 

Ei)ps renuiined on Huff Power two years, when, 
having accumulated a considerable sum of money, he 
expended it in the purchase of the plantation on the 
east bank of Bayou Boeuf, where he still continues to 
reside. He took possession of it in 1845, after the 


holidays were passed. He carried thitlier with him 
nine slaves, all of whom, except myself, and Susan, 
who has since died, remain there yet. He made no 
addition to this force, and for eight years the follow- 
ing were my companions in his quarters, viz : Abram, 
Wiley, Phebe, Bob, Henry, Edward, and Patsey. 
All these, except Edward, born since, were purchased 
out of a drove by Epps during the time he was over- 
seer for Archy B. Williams, whose plantation is situa- 
ted on the shore of Eed River, not far from Alexan- 

Abram was tall, standing a full head above any 
common man. He is sixty years of age, and was 
born in Tennessee. Twenty years ago, he was pur- 
chased by a trader, carried into South Carolina, and 
sold to James Buford, of Williamsburgh county, in 
that State. In his youth he was renowned for his 
great strength, but age and unremitting toil have 
somewhat shattered his pow^erful frame and enfeebled 
his mental faculties. 

Wiley is forty-eight. He was born on the estate 
of William Tassle, and for many years took charge of 
that gentleman's ferry over the Big Blacl; River, in 
South Carolina. 

Phebe was a slave of Buford, Tassle's neighbor, 
and having married Wiley, he bought the latter, at 
her instigation. Buford was a kind master, sheriff of 
the county, and in those days a man of wealth. 

Bob and Henry are Phebe's children, by a former 
husband, their father having been abandoned to give 


place to Wiley. Tliat seductive youtli had insinuated 
himself into Phebe's affections, and therefore the 
laithless spouse had gently kicked her first husband 
out of her cabin door. Edward had been born to 
them on Bayou Huff Power. 

Patsey is twenty-three — also from Buford's planta 
tion. She is in no wise connected with the others, 
but glories in the fact that she is the offspring of a 
" Guinea nigger," brought over to Cuba in a slave 
ship, and in tlie course of trade transferred to Buford, 
who was her mother's owner. 

This, as I learned from them, is a genealogical account 
of my master's slaves. For years they had been to- 
gether. Often they recalled the memories of other 
days, and sighed to retrace their steps to the old home 
in Carolina. Troubles came upon their master Bu- 
ford, which brought far greater troubles upon them. 
He became involved in debt, and unable to bear up 
against liis failing fortunes, was compelled to sell these, 
and others of his slaves. In a chain gang they had 
been driven from beyond the Mississippi to the plan- 
tation of Archy B. Williams. Edwin Epps, who, for a 
long while had been his driver and overseer, was 
about establishing himself in business on his own ac- 
count, at the time of their arrival, and accepted them 
in payment of his wages. 

Old Ab ram was a kind-hearted being — a sort of 
})atriarch among us, fond of entertaining his younger 
bretliren with grave and serious discourse. He was 
deeply versed in such philosophy as is taught in the 


cabin of the slave ; but tbe great absorbing hobby of 
Uncle Abram was General Jackson, whom his young 
master in Tennessee had followed to the wars. He 
loved to wander back, in imagination, to the place 
where he was born, and to recount the scenes of his 
youth during those stirring times when the nation was 
in arms. He had been athletic, and more keen and 
powerful than the generality of his race, but now his 
eye had become dim, and his natural force abated. 
Yery ofteUj indeed, while discussing the best method 
of baking the hoe-cake, or expatiating at large upon 
the glory of Jackson, he would forget where he left 
his hat, or his hoe, or his basket ; and then would the 
old man be laughed at, if Epps was absent, and whip 
ped if he was present. So was he perplexed continu- 
ally, and sighed to think that he was growing aged 
and going to decay. Philosopliy and Jackson and 
forgetfulness had played the mischief with liim, and 
it was evident that all of them combined were fast 
bringing down the gray hairs of Uncle Abram to the 

Aunt Phebe had been an excellent field hand, but 
latterly was put into the kitchen, where she remained, 
except occasionally, in a time of uncommon hurry. 
She was a sly old creature, and when not in the 
presence of her mistress or her master, was gan-ulous 
in the extreme. 

"Wiley, on the contrary, was silent. He performed 
his task without murmur or complaint, seldom in- 
dulging in the luxury of speech, except to utter a 


wish that he was away from Epps, and back once 
more in Soutli Carolina. 

Bob and Henry had reached the ages of twenty 
and twenty- three, and were distinguished for nothing 
extraordinary or unusual, while Edward, a lad of 
thirteen, not yet able to maintain his row in the com 
or the cotton field, was kept in the great house, to 
wait on the little Eppses. 

Patsey was slim and straight. She stood erect as 
tlie human form is capable of standing. There was 
an air of loftiness in her movement, that neither labor, 
nor weariness, nor punishment could destroy. Truly, 
Patsey was a splendid animal, and were it not that 
bondage had enshrouded her intellect in utter and 
everlasting darkness, would have been chief among 
ten thousand of her people. She could leap the 
highest fences, and a fleet hound it was indeed, that 
could outstrip her in a race. 'No horse could fling her 
from his back. She was a skillful teamster. She 
turned as true a furrow as the best, and at splitting 
rails there were none who could excel her. When 
the order to halt was heard at night, she would have 
her mules at the crib, unharnessed, fed and curried, 
before uncle Abram had found his hat. l^ot, how- 
ever, for all or any of these, was she chiefly famous. 
Such lightning-like motion was in her fingers as no 
otlier fingers ever possessed, and therefore it was, that 
in cotton picking time, Patsey was queen of the field. 

Slie had a genial and pleasant temper, and was 
faithful and ol^edient. Naturally, she was a joyous 


creature, a laiigliing, light-hearted girl, rejoicing in 
the mere sense of existence. Yet Patsey wept oftener, 
and suffered more, than any of her companions. 
She had been literally excoriated. Her back bore 
the scars of a thousand stripes ; not because she was 
backward in her work, nor because she was of an un 
mindful and rebellious spirit, but because it had fallen 
to her lot to be the slave of a licentious master and a 
jealous mistress. She shrank before the lustful eye of 
Ihe one, and was in danger even of her life at the 
hands of the other, and between the two, she was 
indeed accursed. In the great house, for days together, 
there were high and angry words, poutings and 
estrangement, whereof she was the innocent cause. 
Nothing delighted the mistress so much as to see her 
suffer, and more than once, when Epps had refused to 
sell her, has she tempted me with bribes to put her 
secretly to death, and bury her body in some lonely 
place in the margin of the swamp. Gladly would 
Patsey have appeased this unforgiving spirit, if it had 
been in her power, but not like Joseph, dared she 
escape from Master Epps, leaving her garment in his 
hand. Patsey walked under a cloud. If she uttered 
a word in opposition to her master's will, the Lish was 
resorted to at once, to bring her to subjection ; if she 
was not watchful when about her cabin, or when 
walking in the yard, a billet of wood, or a broken 
bottle perhaps, hurled from her mistress' hand, would 
smite her unexpectedly in the face. The enslaved vic- 
tim of lust and hate, Patsey had no comfort of her life. 


These were mv companions and fellow-slaves, with 
whom I was accustomed to be driven to the field, and 
with whom it has been my lot to dwell for ten years 
in the log cabins of Edwin Epps. They, if living, are 
yet toiling on the banks of Bayou Boeuf, never des- 
tined to breathe, as I now do, the blessed air of liberty, 
nor to shake off the heavy shackles that enthrall 
them, until thev shall lie down forever in the dust. 













The first year of Epps' residence on the bavon, 
184:5, tlie caterpillars almost totally destroyed the 
cotton crop throughout that region. There was little 
to be done, so that the slaves were necessarily idle 
half the time. However, there came a rumor to Ba- 
you Boeuf that wages were high, and laborers in great 
demand on the sngar plantations in St. Mary's parish. 
This parish is situated on the coast of the Gulf of 
Mexico, about one hundred and forty miles fix>m 
Avoyelles. The Rio Teche, a considerablef stream, 
flows through St. Mary's to the gulf. 



It was determined by the planters, on the receipt 
of tliis intelligence, to make up a drove of slaves to 
be sent down to Tuckapaw in St. Mary's, for the pur- 
pose of hiring them out in the cane fields. Accord- 
ingly, in the month of September, there were one 
hundred and forty-seven collected at Holmesville, 
Abram, Bob and myself among the number. Of these 
about one-half were women. Epps, Alonson Pierce, 
Henry Toler, and Addison Roberts, were the white 
men, selected to accompany, and take charge of the 
drove. They had a two-horse carriage and two sad- 
dle horses for their use. A large wagon, drawn by 
four horses, and driven by John, a boy belonging to 
Mr. Roberts, carried the blankets and provisions. 

About 2 o'clock in the afternoon, having been fed, 
preparations were made to depart. The duty assign- 
ed me was, to take charge of the blankets and pro- 
visions, and see that none were lost by the way. The 
carriage proceeded in advance, the wagon following • 
behind this the slaves were arranged, while the two 
horsemen brought up the rear, and in this order the 
procession moved out of Holmesville. 

That night we reached a Mr. McCrow's plantation, 
a distance of ten or fifteen miles, when we were or- 
dered to halt. Laige fires were built, and each one 
spreading nis blanket on the ground, laid down upon 
it. The white men lodged in the great house. An 
hour before day we were aroused by the drivers com- 
ing among us, cracking their whips and ordering us 
to arise. Then tlie blankets were rolled up, and be- 


ing t^verallj delivered to me and deposited in the 
wag<,^ji, tlie procession set forth again. 

The following night it rained violently. We were 
all drenched, our clothes saturated with mud and wa- 
ter. Eeaching an open shed, formerly a gin-house, we 
found beneath it such shelter as it afforded. There 
was not room for all of us to lay down. There we 
remained, huddled together, through the night, con- 
tinuing our march, as usual, in the morning. During 
the journey w^e were fed twice a day, boiling our 
bacon and baking our corn-cake at the fires in the 
same manner as in our huts. We passed through La- 
fayetteville, Mountsville, ISTew-Town, to Centreville, 
where Bob and Uncle Abram were hired. Our num- 
ber decreased as we advanced — nearly every sugar 
plantation requiring the services of one or more. 

On our route we passed the Grand Coteau or prairie, 
a vast space of level, monotonous country, without a 
tree, except an occasional one which had been trans- 
planted near some dilapidated dwelling. It was once 
thickly populated, and under cultivation, but for some 
cause had been abandoned. The business of the 
scattered inhabitants that now dwell upon it is prin- 
cipally raising cattle. Immense herds were feeding 
npon it as we passed. In the centre of the Grand 
Coteau one feels as if he were on the ocean, out 
of sight of land. As far as the eye can see, in all 
directions, it is but a ruined and deserted waste. 

I was hired to Judge Turner, a distinguished man 
and extensive planter, whose large estate is situated 
I 13 


on Bayou Salle, within a few miles of tlie gulf. Bay 
oil Salle is a small stream flowing into the bay of 
Atchafalaya. For some days I was employed at 
Turner's in repairing his sugar house, when a cane 
knife was put into my hand, and with thirty or 
forty others, I was sent into the field. I found no 
Buch difficulty in learning the art of cutting cane 
that I had in picking cotton. It came to me natural- 
ly and intuitively, and in a short time I was able to 
keep up with the fastest knife. Before the cutting 
was over, however, Judge Tanner transferred me from 
the field to the sugar house, to act there in the ca- 
pacity of driver. From the time of the commence- 
ment of sugar making to the close, the gi-inding and 
boiling does not cease day or night. The whip was 
given me with directions to use it upon any one who 
was caught standing idle. If I failed to obey them 
to the letter, there was another one for my own back. 
In addition to this my duty was to call on and off the 
different gangs at the proper time. I had no regular 
periods of rest, and could never snatch but a few mo- 
ments of sleep at a time. 

It is the custom in Louisiana, as I presume it is in 
other slave States, to allow the slave to retain what- 
ever compensation he may obtain for services per- 
formed on Sundays. In this way, only, are they able 
to provide themselves with any luxury or conveni- 
ence whatever. Wlien a slave, purchased, or kidnap- 
\n)i\ in the North, is transported to a cabin on Bayou 
BaMif, he is furnished with neitlier knife, nor fork^ 


uor dish, nor kettle, nor any other thing in the sha^)e 
of crockery, or furniture of any nature or description. 
He is furnished with a blanket before he reaches 
there, and wrapping that around him, he can either 
stand up, or lie down upon the ground, or on a board, 
if his master has no use for it. He is at liberty to 
find a gourd in which to keep his meal, or he can eat 
his corn from the cob, just as he pleases. To ask the 
master for a knife, or skillet, or any small convenience 
of the kind, would be answered with a kick, or laugh- 
ed at as a joke. Whatever necessary article of this 
nature is found in a cabin has been purchased with 
Sunday money. However injurious to the morals, 
it is certainly a blessing to the physical condition of 
the slave, to be permitted to break the Sabbath. 
Otherwise there would be no way to provide him- 
self with any utensils, which seem to be indispensa- 
ble to him who is compelled to be his own cook. 
On cane plantations in sugar time, there is no dis- 
tinction as to the days of the week. It is well un- 
derstood that all hands must labor on the Sabbath^ 
and it is equally well understood that those especial- 
ly who are hired, as I was to Judge Turner, and oth- 
ers in succeeding years, shall receive remuneration 
for it. It is usual, also, in the most hurrying time of 
cotton-picking, to require the same extra service. 
From this source, slaves generally are afforded an 
opportunity of earning sufficient to purchase a knife, 
a kettle, tobacco and so forth. The females, discard- 
ing the latter luxury, are apt to expend their little 


revenue in the purchase of gaudy ribbons, wherewithal 
to deck their hair in the merry season of the holidays. 

1 remained in St. Mary's until the first of January, 
during which time my Sunday money amounted to 
ten dollars. I met with other good fortune, for which 
I was indebted to my violin, my constant companion, 
the source of profit, and soother of my sorrows during 
years of servitude. There was a grand party of 
whites assembled at Mr. Yarney's, in Centre ville, a 
luimlet in the vicinity of Turner's plantation. I was 
employed to play for them, and so well pleased were 
the merry-makers with my performance, that a con- 
tribution was taken for my benefit, which amounted 
to seventeen dollars. 

With this sum in possession, I was looked upon by 
my fellows as a millionaire. It afi'orded me great 
pleasure to look at it — to count it over and over 
again, day after day. Visions of cabin furniture, of 
water pails, of pocket knives, new shoes and .coats 
and hats, floated through my fancy, and up through 
all rose the triumphant contemplation, that I was 
the wealthiest " nigger" on Bayou Boeuf. 

Vessels run up the Eio Teche to Centreville. 
While there, I was bold enough one day to present 
myself before the captain of a steamer, and beg per- 
mission to hide myself among the freight. I was 
emboldened to risk the hazard of such a step, from 
overhearing a conversation, in the course of which I 
ascertained he was a native of the JSTorth. I did not 
relate to him the particulars of my history, but only 


expressed an ardent desire to escape from slavery to 
a free State. He pitied me, but said it would be im- 
possible to avoid the vigilant custom house officers in 
E'ew-Orleans, and that detection would subject him 
to punishment, and his vessel to confiscation. My 
earnest entreaties evidently excited his sympathies, 
and doubtless he would have yielded to them, could 
he have done so with any kind of safety. I was 
compelled to smother the sudden flame that lighted 
ujD my bosom with sweet hopes of liberation, and 
turn my steps once more towards the increasing 
darkness of despair. 

Immediately after this event the drove assembled 
at Centre ville, and several of the owners having ar 
rived and collected the monies due for our services, 
we were driven back to Bayou Boeuf. It was on our 
return, while passing through a small village, that I 
caught sight of Tibeats, seated in the door of a dirty 
grocery, looking somewhat seedy and out of repair. 
Passion and poor whisky, I doubt not, have ere this 
laid him on the shelf. 

During our absence, I learned from Aunt Phebe 
and Patsey, that the latter had been getting deeper 
and deeper into trouble. The poor girl was truly an 
object of pity. '' Old Hogjaw," the name by which 
Epps was called, when the slaves were by themselves, 
had beaten h^r more severely and frequently than 
ever. As surely as he came from Holmes ville, elated 
with liquor — and it was often in those days — he 
would whip her, merely to gratify the mistress ; would 


punish lier to an extent almost beyond endurance, for 
an offence of wliicli lie himself was the sole and irre- 
sistible cause. In his sober moments he could not al- 
ways be prevailed upon to indulge his wife's insatia- 
ble thirst for vengeance. 

To be rid of Patsey — to j^lace her beyond sight or 
reach, by sale, or death, or in any other manner, of 
late years, seemed to be the ruling thought and pas- 
sion of my mistress. Patsey had been a favorite when 
a child, even in the great house. She had been pet- 
ted and admired for her uncommon sprightliness and 
pleasant disposition. She had been fed many a time, 
60 Uncle Abram said, even on biscuit and milk, when 
the madam, in her younger days, was wont to call 
her to the piazza, and fondle her as she would a play- 
ful kitten. But a sad change had come over the spirit 
of the woman. Now, only black and angry fiends 
ministered in the temple of her heart, until she could 
look on Patsey but with concentrated venom. 

Mistress Epps was not naturally such an evil wo- 
man, after all. She was possessed of the devil, jeal- 
ousy, it is true, but aside from that, there was much 
in her character to admire. Her father, Mr. Koberts, 
resided in Cheneyville, an influential and honorable 
man, and as much respected throughout the parish 
OS any other citizen. She had been well educated at 
3ome institution this side the Mississippi ; was beauti- 
ful, accomplished, and usually good-humored. She 
(\'as kind to all of us but Patsey — frequently, in the 
ibsence of her husband, sending out to us some little 


dainty from her own table. In other situations — in 
a different society from that which exists on the shores 
of Bayou Boeuf, she would have been pronounced an 
elegant and fascinating woman. An ill wind it was 
that blew her into^the arras of Epps. 

He respected and loved his wife as much as a coarse 
nature like his is capable of loving, but supreme sel- 
fishness always overmastered conjugal affection. 

" He loved as well as baser natures can. 

But a mean heart and soul were in that man." 

He was ready to gratify any whim — to grant any re- 
quest she made, provided it did not cost too much. 
Patsey was equal to any two of his slaves in the cot- 
ton field. He could not replace her with the same 
money she would bring. The idea of disposing of 
her, therefore, could not be entertained. The mistress 
did not regard her at all in that light. The pride of 
the haughty woman was aroused ; the blood of the 
fiery southern boiled at the sight of Patsey, and noth- 
ing less than trampling out the ^*fe of the helpless 
bondwoman would satisfy her. 

Sometimes the current of her wrath turned upon 
him whom she had jus.t cause to hate. But the storm 
of angry words would pass over at length, and there 
would be a season of calm again. At such times Pat- 
sey trembled with fear, and cried as if her heart would 
break, for she knew from painful experience, that if 
mistress should work herself to the red-hot pitch of 
rage, Epps would quiet her at last with a promise that 
Patsey should bo fiogged — a promise he was sure to 


keep. Tims did pride, and jealousy, and vengeance 
war witli avarice and brute-passion in tlie mansion of 
my master, filling it with daily tumult and conten- 
tion. Thus, upon the head of Patsey — -the simple- 
minded slave, in whose heart God. had implanted the 
seeds of virtue — the force of all these domestic tern 
pests spent itself at last. 

During the summer succeeding my return from St 
Mary's parish, I conceived a plan of providing myself 
with food, which, though simple, succeeded beyond 
expectation. It has been followed by many others 
in my condition, up and down the bayou, and of such 
benefit has it become that I am almost persuaded to 
look upon myself as a benefactor. That summer the 
worms got into the bacon, l^othing but ravenous 
hunger could induce us to swallow it. The weekly 
allowance of meal scarcely sufficed to satisfy us. It 
was customary with us, as it is with all in that region, 
where the allowance is exhausted before Saturday 
night, or is in such a state as to render it nauseous 
and disgusting, to hunt in the swamps for coon and 
opossum. This, however, must be done at night, af- 
ter the day's work is accompKshed. There are plan- 
ters whose slaves, for months at a time, have no other 
meat than such as is obtained in this manner. JSTo 
objections are made to hunting, inasmuch as it dis- 
penses with drafts upon the smoke-house, and because 
every marauding coon that is killed is so much saved 
from the standing corn. They are hunted with dogs 
and clubs, slaves not being allowed the use of fire-arms. 


The flesh of the coon is palatable, but verily there 
is nothing in all butcherdom so delicious as a roasted 
'possum. They are a round, rather long-bodied, little 
animal, of a whitish color, with nose like a pig, and 
caudal extremity like a rat. They burrow among 
the roots and in the hollows of the gum tree, and are 
clumsy and slow of motion. They are deceitful and 
cunning creatures. On receiving the slightest tap of 
a stick, they will roll over on the ground and feign 
death. If the hunter leaves him, in pursuit of anoth- 
er, without first taking particular pains to break his 
neck, the chances are, on his return, he is not to be 
found. The little animal has out witted the enemy 
— has " played 'possum" — and is off. Bat after a 
long and hard day's work, the weary slave feels little 
like going to the swamp for his supper, and half the 
time prefers throwing himself on the cabin floor with- 
out it. It is for the interest of the master that the ser- 
vant should not suffer in health from starvation, and 
it is also for his interest that he should not become gross 
from over-feeding. In the estimation of the owner, a 
slave is the most serviceable when in rather a lean 
and lank condition, such a condition as the race-horse 
is in, when fitted for the course, and in that condition 
they are generally to be found on the sugar and cot- 
ton plantations along Red River. 

My cabin was within a few rods of the bayou bank, 

and necessity being indeed the mother of invention, I 

resolved upon a mode of obtaining the requisite 

amount of food, without the trouble of resorting night- 


ly to the woods. This was to construct a fish trap. 
Having, in my mind, conceived the manner in which 
it could be done, the next Sunday I set about putting 
it into practical execution. It may be impossible for 
me to convey to the reader a full and correct idea of 
its construction, but the following will serve as a gen- 
eral description : 

A frame between two and three feet square is made, 
and of a greater or less height, according to the 
de])th of water. Boards or slats are nailed on three 
sides of this frame, not so closely, however, as to pre- 
vent the water circulating freely through it. A door 
is fitted into the fourth side, in such manner that it 
will slide easily up and down in the grooves cut in 
the two posts. A movable bottom is then so fitted 
that it can be raised to the top of the frame without 
difficulty. In the centre of the movable bottom an 
auger hole is bored, and into this one end of a handle 
or round stick is fastened on the under side so loosely 
that it will turn. The handle ascends from the centre 
of the movable bottom to the top of the frame, or as 
nmch higher as is desirable. Up and down this 
handle, in a great many places, are gimlet holes, 
through which small sticks are inserted, extending to 
opposite sides of the frame. So many of these small 
sticks are running out from the handle in all direc- 
tions, that a fish of any considerable dimensions can- 
not pass through without hitting one of them. The 
frame is then placed in the water and made sta- 


The trap is " set" by sliding or drawing up the door, 
and kept in that position by another stick, one end 
of which rests in a notch on the inner side, the other 
end in a notch made in the handle, running up from 
the centre of the movable bottom. The trap is 
baited by rolling a handful of wet meal and cotton 
together until it becomes hard, and depositing it in 
the back part of the frame. A fish swimming through 
the upraised door towards the bait, necessarily strikes 
one of the small sticks turning the handle, which dis 
placing the stick supporting the door, the latter falls, 
securing the fish within the frame. Taking hold of 
the top of the handle, the movable bottom is then 
drawn up to the surface of the water, and the fish 
taken out. There may have been other such traps in 
use before mine was constructed, but if there were 
I had never happened to see one. Bayou Boeuf 
abounds in fish of large size and excellent quality, 
and after this time I was very rarely in want of one 
for myself, or for my comrades. Thus a mine was 
opened — a new resource was developed, hitherto un- 
thought of by the enslaved children of Africa, who 
toil and hunger along the shores of that sluggish, but 
prolific stream. 

About the time of which I am now writing, an 
event occurred in our immediate neighborhood, which 
made a deej) impression upon me, and which shows 
the state of society existing there, and the manner in 
which aflTronts are oftentimes avenged. Directly oj)- 
posite our quarters, cm the other side of the bayou, 


was situated the plantation of Mr. Marshall. He 
belonged to a family among the most wealthy and 
aristocratic in the country. A gentleman from the 
vicinity of Xatchez had been negotiating with him 
for the purchase of the estate. One day a messenger 
came in great haste to our plantation, saying that a 
bloody and fearful battle was going on at Mar- 
shall's — that blood had been spilled — and unless 
the combatants were forthwith separated, . the result 
would be disastrous. 

On repairing to Marshall's house, a scene presented 
itself that beggars description. On the floor of one 
of the rooms lay the ghastly corpse of the man from 
Katchez, while Marshall, enraged and covered with 
wounds and blood, was stalking back and forth, 
" breathing out threatenings and slaughter." A diffi- 
culty had arisen in the course of their negotiation, 
high words ensued, when drawing their weapons, the 
deadly strife began that ended so unfortunately. 
Marshall was never placed in confinement. A sort of 
trial or investigation was had at Marksville, when he 
was acquitted, and returned to his plantation, rather 
more respected, as I thought, than ever, from the fact 
that the blood of a fellow being was on his soul. 

Epps interested himself in his behalf, accompany- 
ing him to Marksville, and on all occasions loudly 
justifying him, but his services in this respect did not 
afterwards deter a kinsman of this same Marshall 
from seeking his life also. A brawl occurred between 
them over a gambling-tal)le, which terminated in a 


-deadly fend. Eiding up on horseback in front of the 
house one day, armed with pistols and bowie knife, 
Marshall challenged him to come forth and make a 
final settlement of the quarrel, or he would brand 
him as a coward, and shoot him like a dog the first 
opportunity. 'Not through cowardice, nor from any 
conscientious scruples, in my opinion, but through the 
influence of his wife, he was restrained from accept 
ing the challenge of his enemy. A reconciliation, 
however, was effected afterward, since which time 
they have been on terms of the closest intimacy. 

Such occurrences, which would bring upon the 
parties concerned in them merited and condign pun- 
ishment in the Northern States, are frequent on the 
bayou, and pass without notice, and almost without 
comment. Every man carries his bowie knife, and 
when two fall out, they set to work hacking and 
thrusting at each other, more like savages than civ- 
ilized and enlightened beings. 

The existence of Slavery in its most cruel form 
among them- has a tendency to brutalize the humane 
and finer feeXings of their nature. Daily witnesses of 
human suffering — listening to the agonizing screeches 
of the slave — beholding him writhing beneath the 
merciless lash — bitten and torn by dogs — dying 
without attention, and buried without shroud or 
coffin — it cannot otherwise be expected, than that 
they should become brutified and reckless of human 
life. It is true there are many kind-hearted and good 
men in the parish of Avoyelles — such men as W il- 


liam Ford — who can look with, pity upon the suffer 
ings of a slave, just as there are, over all the world, 
sensitive and sympathetic spirits, who cannot look 
with indifference upon the sufferings of any creature 
which the Almighty has endowed with life. It is 
not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so 
much as it is the fault of the system under which he 
lives. lie cannot withstand the influence of habit 
and associations that surround him. Taught from 
earliest childhood, by all that he sees and hears, that 
the rod is for the slave's back, he will not be apt to 
change his opinions in maturer years. 

There may be humane masters, as there certainly 
are inhuman ones — there may be slaves well-clothed, 
well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half- 
clad, half-starved and miserable ; nevertheless, the 
institution that tolerates such wTong and inhumanity 
as I have witnessed, is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous 
one. Men may write fictions portraying lowly life as 
it is, or as it is not — may expatiate with owlish 
gravity upon the bliss of ignorance — discourse flip- 
pantly from arm chairs of the pleasures of slave life ; 
but let them toil with him in the field — sleep with 
him in the cabin — feed with him on husks ; let them 
behold him scourged, hunted, trampled on, and they 
will come back with another story in their mouths. 
Let them know the heart of the poor slave — learn 
his secret thoughts — thoughts he dare not utter in 
the hearing of the white man ; let them sit by him 
in the silent watches of the nio^lit — converse with 


him in trustful confidence, of " life, liberty, and the 
pursuit of happiness," and they will find that ninety- 
nine out of every hundred are intelligent enough to 
understand their situation, and to cherish in their 
bosoms the love of freedom, as passionately as them- 


labors on sugar plantations the mode of planting cane of hoeing 

cane cane ricks cutting cane description of the cane knefb 

wtnrowing preparing for succeeding crops description of 

Hawkins' sugar mill on batou bceuf — the Christmas holidays — 







Ix consequence of my inability in cotton-picking, 
Epps was in the habit of hiring me out on sugar 
plantations during the season of cane-cutting and 
sugar-making. He received for my services a dolLar 
a day, with the money supplying my place on his 
cotton plantation. Cutting cane was an employment 
tluit suited me, and for three successive years I held 
the lead row at Hawkins', leading a gang of from 
fifty to an hundred hands. 

In a previous chapter tlie mode of cultivating cot- 
ton is described. This may be the proper place to 
Fpcak of tlie manner of cultivating cane. 

Tlie ground is prepared in beds, the same as it is 
t)ri-pared fur the reception of the cotton seed, except 


it is plouglied deeper. Drills are made in the same 
mamier. Planting commences in January, and con- 
tinues until April. It is necessary to plant a sugar 
field only once in tliree years. Tln'9e crops are taken 
before the seed or plant is exhausted. 

Three gangs are employed in the operation. One 
draws the cane from the rick, or stack, cutting the 
top and flags from the stalk, leaving only that part 
which is sound and healthy. Each joint of the cane 
has an eye, like the eye of a potato, which sends forth 
a sprout when buried in the soil. Another gang lays 
the cane in the drill, placing two stalks side by side 
in such manner that joints will occur once in four or 
six inches. The third gang follows with hoes, drawing 
earth upon the stalks, and covering them to the depth 
of three inches. 

In four weeks, at the farthest, the S23routs appear 
'above the ground, and from this time forward grow 
with great rapidity. A sugar -field is hoed three 
times, the same as cotton, save that a greater quantity 
of eartli is drawn to the roots. By the first of Au- 
gust hoeing is usually over. About the middle of 
September, whatever is required for seed is cut and 
stacked in ricks, as they are termed. In October it 
is ready for the mill or sugar-house, and then the gen- 
eral cutting begins. The blade of a cane-knife is fif- 
teen inches long, three inches wide in the middle, and 
tapering towards the point and handle. The blade 
is thin, and in order to be at all serviceable must be 
kept very sharp. Every third hand takes the lead of 



two Others, one of whom is on each side of him. Tlie 
lead hand, in the first place, with a blow of his knife 
shears the flags from the stalk. He next cuts off the 
top down as far as it is green. He must be careful 
to sever all the green from the ripe part, inasmuch 
as the juice of the former sours the molasses, and ren- 
ders it unsalable. Then he severs the stalk at the 
root, and lays it directly behind him. His right and 
left hand companions lay their stalks, when cut in the 
same manner, upon his. To every three hands there 
is a cart, which follows, and the stalks are thrown into 
it by the younger slaves, when it is drawn to the su- 
gar-house and ground. 

If the planter apprehends a frost, the cane is win- 
rowed. Winrowing is the cutting the stalks at an 
early period and throwing them lengthwise in the wa- 
ter furrow in such a manner that the tops will cover 
the butts of the stalks. They will remain in this con- 
dition three weeks or a month without souring, and 
secure from frost. When the proper time arrives, 
they are taken up, trimmed and carted to the sugar- 

In the month of January the slaves enter the field 
again to prepare for another crop. The ground is 
now strewn with the tops, and flags cut from the past 
year's cane. On a dry day fire is set to this combus- 
tible refuse, which sweeps over the field, leaving it 
bare and clean, and ready for the hoes. The earth is 
loosened about die roots of the old stubble, and in 
pi-ocess of time another crop springs up from the last 


year's seed. It is the same the year following ; but 
the third year the seed has exhausted its strength, 
and the field must be ploughed and planted again. 
The second year the cane is sweeter and yields more 
than the first, and the third year more than the seconj. 

During the three seasons 1 labored on Hawkins' 
plantation, I was employed a considerable portion of 
the time in the sugar-house. He is celebrated as the 
producer of the finest variety of white sugar. The 
following is a general description of his sugar-house 
and the process of manufacture : 

The mill is an immense brick building, standing on 
the shore of the bayou. Running out from the build- 
ing is an open shed, at least an hundred feet in length 
and forty or fifty feet in width. The boiler in which 
the steam is generated is situated outside the main 
building ; the machinery and engine rest on a brick 
pier, fifteen feet above the floor, within the body of the 
building. The machinery turns two great iron rollers, 
between two and three feet in diameter and six or 
eight feet in length. They are elevated above the 
brick pier, and roll in towards each other. An end- 
less carrier, made of chain and wood, like leathern 
belts used in small mills, extends from the iron rollers 
out of the maiii building and through the entire 
length of the open shed. The carts in which the cane 
is brought from the field as fast as it is cut, are un- 
loaded at the sides of the shed. All along the endless 
carrier are ranged slave children, whose business it is 
to place the cane upon it, when it is conveyed through 


the shed into the main building, where it falls be- 
tween the rollers, is crushed, and drops upon another 
carrier that conveys it out of the main building in an 
opposite direction, depositing it in the top of a chim- 
ney upon a fire beneath, which consumes it. It is ne- 
fiessary to burn it in this manner, because otherwise 
it would soon fill the building, and more especially 
because it would soon sour and engender disease. 
The juice of the cane falls into a conductor underneath 
the iron rollers, and is carried into a reservoir. Pipes 
convey it from thence into five tilterers, holding sev- 
eral hogsheads each. These filterers are filled with 
boTie-black, a substance resembling pulverized char- 
coal. It is made of bones calcinated in close vessels, 
and is used for the purpose of decolorizing, by filtra- 
tion, the cane juice before boiling. Through these 
five filterers it passes in succession, and then runs into 
a large reservoir underneath the ground floor, from 
whence it is carried up, by means of a steam pump, 
into a clarifier made of sheet iron, where it is heated 
by steam until it boils. From the first clarifier it is 
carried in pipes to a second and a third, and thencs 
into close iron pans, through which tubes pass, filled 
with steam. AYliile in a boilino^ state it flows throuo-li 
three pans in succession, and is then carried in other 
pipes down to the coolers on the ground floor. Cool- 
ers are wooden boxes with sieve bottoms made of the 
finest wire. As soon as the syrup passes into the 
coolers, and is met by the air, it grains, and the mo- 
lasses at once escapes through the sieves into a cisterp 


below. It is tlien wliite or loaf sugar of tlie finest 
kind — clear, clean, and as wliite as snow. When 
cool, it is taken out, packed in liogslieads, and is ready 
for market. Tlie molasses is tlien carried from the 
cistern into the upper story again, and by another 
process converted into brown sugar. 

There are larger mills, and those constructed differ- 
ently from the one thus imperfectly described, but 
none, perhaps, more celebrated than this anywhere 
on Bayou Boeuf. Lambert, of Kew-Orleans, is a part- 
ner of Hawkins. He is a man of vast wealth, hold- 
ing, as I have been told, an interest in over forty dif- 
ferent sugar plantations in Louisiana. 


The only respite from constant labor the slave has 
through the whole year, is dming the Christmas holi- 
days. Epps allowed us three — 'Others allow four, 
^ve and six days, according to the measure of their 
generosity. It is the only time to which they look 
forward with any interest or pleasure. They are glad 
when night comes, not only because it brings them a 
few hours repose, but because it brings them one day 
nearer Christmas. It is hailed with equal delight by 
the old and the young ; even Uncle Abram ceases to 
glorify Andrew Jackson, and Patsey forgets her many 
sorrows, amid the general hilarity of the holidays. It 
is the time of feasting, and frolicking, and fiddling — ■ 
the carnival season with the children of bondage. 
They are the only days when they are allowed a little 
restricted liberty, and heartily indeed do they enjoy it 


It is tlie custom for one planter to give a " Christ- 
mas supper," inviting the slaves from neighboring 
pUintations to join his o^vn on the occasion; for in- 
stance, one year it is given by Epps, the next by Mar- 
si lall, the next by Hawkins, and so on. Usually from 
three to five hundred are assembled, coming togethei 
on foot, in carts, on horseback, on mules, riding double 
and triple, sometimes a boy and girl, at others a girl 
and two boys, and at others again a boy, a girl and 
an old woman. Uncle Abram astride a mule, with 
Aunt Phebe and Patsey behind him, trotting towards 
a Christmas supper, would be no uncommon sight on 
Bayou Boeuf. 

Then, too, " of all days i' the year," they array 
themselves in their best attire. The cotton coat has 
been washed clean, the stump of a tallow candle has 
been applied to the shoes, and if so fortunate as to pos- 
sess a rimless or a crownless hat, it is placed jauntily 
on the head. Tliey are welcomed with equal cordial- 
ity, however, if they come bare-headed and bare- 
footed to the feast. As a general thing, the women 
wear handkerchiefs tied about their heads, but if 
chance has thrown in their way a fiery red ribbon, 
or a cast-off bonnet of their mistress' grandmother, it 
is sure to be worn on such occasions. Ked — the deep 
blood red — is decidedly the favorite color among the 
enslaved damsels of my acquaintance. K a red rib- 
bon does not encircle the neck, you will be certain to 
find all the hair uf their woolly heads tied up with red 
strings of one sort or another. 


The table is spread in the open air, and loaded with 
varieties of meat and piles of vegetables. Bacon and 
corn meal at such times are dispensed with. Some- 
times the cooking is performed in the kitchen on the 
plantation, at others in the shade of wide branching 
trees. In the latter case, a ditch is dug in the gi-ound, 
and wood laid in and burned until it is filled with 
glowing coals, over which chickens, ducks, turkeys, 
pigs, and not unfrequently the entire body of a wild 
ox, are roasted. They are furnished also with flour, 
of which biscuits are made, and often with peach and 
other preserves, with tarts, and every manner and de- 
scription of pies, except the mince, that being an ar- 
ticle of pastry as yet unknown among them. Only 
the slave who has lived all the years on his scanty al- 
lowance of meal and bacon, can appreciate such sup- 
pers. White people in great numbers assemble to 
witness the gastronomical enjoyments. 

They seat themselves at the rustic table — the males 
on one side, the females on the other. The two be- 
tween whom there may have been an exchange of 
tenderness, invariably manage to sit opposite ; for the 
omnipresent Cupid disdains not to hurl his arrows into 
the simple hearts of slaves. Unalloyed and exulting 
happiness lights up the dark faces of them all. The 
ivory teeth, contrasting with their black complexions, 
exhibit two long, white streaks the whole extent of 
the table. All round the bountiful board a multitude 
of eyes roll in ecstacy. Giggling and laughter and 
the clattering of cutlery and crockery succeed. Cuf 


fee's elbow Iiunclies his neighbor's side, impelled by 
an involuntary impulse of delight ; E'elly shakes her 
finger at Sambo and laughs, she knows not why, and 
80 the fun and merriment flow^s on. 

When the viands have disajDpeared, and the hungry 
maws of the children of toil are satisfied, then, next 
in the order of amusement, is the Christmas dance. 
My business on these gala days always was to play on 
the violin. The African race is a music-loving one, 
proverbially ; and many there were among my fellow- 
bondsmen whose organs of tune were strikingly devel- 
oped, and who could thumb the banjo with dexterity ; 
but at the expense of appearing egotistical, I must, 
nevertheless, declare, that I was considered the Ole 
Bull of Bayou Boeuf. My master often received let- 
ters, sometimes from a distance of ten miles, request- 
ing him to send me to play at a ball or festival of the 
whites. He received his compensation, and usually I 
also returned with many picayunes jingling in my 
pockets — the extra contributions of those to whose 
delight I had administered. In this manner I became 
more acquainted than I otherwise would, up and down 
the bayou. The young men and maidens of Ilolmes- 
ville always knew there was to be a jolKfication some- 
where, whenever Piatt Epps was seen passing through 
the town with his fiddle in his hand. " Where are 
you going now, Piatt?" and "What is coming off to- 
niglit, Piatt ?" would be interrogatories issuing from 
every door and window, and many a time when there 
was no special hurry, yielding to pressing importuni- 


tics, Piatt would draw his bow, and sitting astride 
his mule, perhaps, discourse musically to a crowd 
of delighted children, gathered around him in the 

Alas ! had it not been for my beloved violin, I scarce- 
ly can conceive how I could have endured the long 
years of bondage. It introduced me to great houses 
— relieved me of many days' labor in the field — sup- 
plied me with conveniences for my cabin — with 
pipes and tobacco, and extra pairs of shoes, and often- 
times led me away from the presence of a hard mas- 
ter, to witness scenes of jollity and mirth. It was 
my companion — the friend of my bosom — triumph- 
ing loudly when I was joyful, and uttering its soft, 
melodious consolations when I was sad. Often, at 
midnight, when sleep had fled aftrighted from the 
cabin, and my soul was disturbed and troubled with 
the contemplation of my fate, it would sing me a song 
of peace. On holy Sabbath days, when an hour or 
two of leisure was allowed, it would accompany me 
to some quiet place on the bayou bank,, lifting 
up its voice, discourse kindly and pleasantly indeed. 
It heralded my name round the country — made me 
friends, who, otherwise would not have noticed me — 
gave me an honored seat at the yearly feasts, and se- 
cured the loudest and heartiest welcome of them all 
at the Christmas dance. The Christmas dance ! Oh, 
ye pleasure-seeking sons and daughters of idleness, 
who move with measured step, listless and snail-like, 
through the slow- winding cotillon, if ye wish to look 

^18 twelat: years a slave. 

upon the celerity, if not the " poetiy of motion" ^ 
upon genuine happiness, rampant and unrestrained — ■ 
go down to Louisiana, and see the slaves dancing in 
the starlight of a Christmas night. 

On that particular Christmas I have now in my 
mind, a description whereof will serve as a descrip 
tion of the day generally, Miss Lively and Mr. Sam, 
the first belonging to Stewart, the latter to Eoberts, 
started the ball. It was well known that Sam cher- 
ished an ardent passion for Lively, as also did one of 
Marshall's and another of Carey's boys ; for Lively 
was lively indeed, and a heart-breaking coquette with- 
al. It was a victory for Sam Roberts, when, rising 
from the repast, she gave him her hand for the f .'st 
"figu e" in preference to either of his rivals. T ^ey 
wert; somewhat crest-fallen, and, shaking their h ads 
angrily, rather intimated they would like to pitcl into 
Mr. Sam and hurt him badly. But not an en jtion 
of TSTath ruffled the placid bosom of Samuel as his 
legs flew like drum-sticks down the outside md up 
the middle, by the side of his bewitching )artner. 
The whole company cheered them vociferously, and, 
excited with the applause, they continued " tearing 
Oown" after all the others had become exhausted and 
halted a moment to recover breath. But Sam's su 
perhuman exertions overcame him finally, leaving 
Lively alone, yet whirling like a top. Thereupon one 
of Sam's rivals, Pete Marshall, dashed in, and, with 
ini-^ht and main, leaped and shuffled and threw him- 
Rcll" intu every conceivable shape, as if determined to 


show Miss Lively and all the world that Sam Eoberts 
was of no account. 

Pete's afiection, however, waa greater than his dis- 
cretion. Such violent exercise took the breath out of 
him directly, and he dropped like an empty bag. 
Tlien was the time for Harry Carey to try his hand ; 
but Lively also soon out- winded him, amidst hurrahs 
and shouts, fully sustaining her well-earned reputation 
of being the " fastest gal" on the bayou. 

One '' set" off, another takes its place, he or she re- 
maining longest on the floor receiving the most up 
roarious commendation, and so the dancing continue? 
until broad daylight. It does not cease with the 
sound of the fiddle, but in that case they set np a mu- 
sic peculiar to themselves. This is called " patting," 
accompanied with one of those nnmeaning songs, 
composed rather for its adaptation to a certain tune 
or measure, than for the purpose of expressing any 
distinct idea. The patting is performed by striking 
the hands on the knees, then striking the hands to- 
gether, then striking the right shoulder with one 
hand, the left with the other — all the while keeping 
time with the feet, and singing, perhaps, this song' 

" Harper's creek and roarin' ribber, 
Thar, my dear, we'll live forebber ; 
Den we'll go to de Ingin nation, 
All I want in dis creation. 
Is pretty little wife and big plantation. 

Chorus. Up dat oak and down dat ribber, 

Two overseers and one little nigger** 


Or, if tliese words are not adapted to tlie tune called 
for, it may be that " Old Hog Eye" ^5 — a rather sol- 
emn and startling specimen of versification, not, how- 
ever, to be appreciated unless heard at the South. It 
rimneth as follows : 

" Who's been here since I've been gone ? 

Pretty little gal wid a josey on. 
Hog Eye ! 
Old Hog Eye, 
And Hosey too ! 

Never see de like since I was bom, 
Here come a little gal wdd a josey on. 

Hog Eye ! 
Old Hog Eye ! 
And Hosey too !" 

Or, may be the following, perhaps, equally nonsen- 
sical, but full of melody, nevertheless, as it flows 
from the negro's mouth : 

" Ebo Dick and Jurdan's Jo, 
Them two niggers stole my yo'. 

Chorus. Hop Jim along, 
Walk Jim along, 
Talk Jim along," &c. 

Old black Dan, as black as tar, 
He dam glad he was not dar. 

Hop Jim along," &c. 

During the remainmg holidays succeeding Christ- 
mas, they are provided wi^h passes, and permitted to 
go where they please within a limited distance, or 
tliey i^iay remain and labor on the plantation, in 


whicli case tliey are paid for it. It is very rarely, 
however, that the latter alternative is accepted. 
Tley may be seen at these times hurrying in all di- 
rections, as happy looking mortals as can be found 
on the face of the earth. They are different beings 
from what they are in the field ; the temporary re 
laxation, the brief deliverance from fear, and from 
the lash, producing an entire metamorphosis in their 
appearance and demeanor. In visiting, riding, renew- 
ing old friendships, or, perchance, reviving some old 
attachment, or pursuing whatever pleasure may sug- 
gest itself, the time is occupied. Such is " southern 
life as it is," tlwee days in the year^ as I found it — • 
the other three hundred and sixty-two being days 
of weariness, and fear, and suffering, and unremit- 
ting labor. 

Marriage is frequently contracted during the holi- 
days, if such an institution may be said to exist 
among them. The only ceremony required before 
entering into that " holy estate," is to obtain the con- 
sent of the respective owners. It is usually encour- 
aged by the masters of female slaves. Either party 
can have as many husbands or wives as the owner 
will permit, and either is at liberty to discard the 
other at pleasure. The law in relation to divorce, or 
to bigamy, and so forth, is not applicable to property, 
of course. If the wife does not belong on the same 
plantation with the husband, the latter is permitted 
to visit her on Saturday nights, if the distance is not 
too far. Uncle Abnim's wife lived seven miles from 


Epps', on Bajon Iluff Power. He had permission l^^ 
visit her once a fortniirh.t, but lie was growing old, as 
lias been said, and ^ .tii to say, liad latterly well nigh 
forgotten her. iJncle Abram had no time to spare 
from his meditations on General Jackson — connubial 
dalliance being well enough for the young and 
thoughtless, but unbecoming a grave and solemn phi- 
losopher like himself. 









"With tlie exception of mj trip to St. Mary's parish, 
and my absence during the cane-cutting seasons, I 
was constautly employed on the plantation of Master 
Epps. He was considered but a small planter, not 
having a sufficient number of hands to require the 
services of an overseer, acting in the latter capao^^v 
himself. ISTot able to increase his force, it was his 
custom to liire during the hurry of potton-picking. 

On large? estates, employing fifty or a hundred, or 
perhaps two hundred hands, an overseer is deemed 
indispensable. Tliese gentlemen ride into the fio^ ' 
on horseback, without an exception, to myknowledg 
armed with pistols, bowie knife, whip, and accompa- 
nied by several dogs. Tliey follow, equipped in this 
fashion, in rear of the slaves, keeping a sharp lookout 


upon them all. The requisite qualifications in an 
overseer are utter heartlessness, brutality and cruelty. 
It is his business to produce large crops, and if that is 
accomplished, no matter what amount of sufifering it 
may have cost. The presence of the dogs are neces- 
sary to overhaul a fugitive who may take to his heels, 
as is sometimes the case, when faint or sick, he is un- 
able to maintin his row, and unable, also, to en- 
dure the whip. The pistols are reserved for any dan- 
gerous emergency, there ha^dng been instances when 
such weapons were necessary. Goaded into uncon- 
trollable madness, even the slave will sometimes turn 
upon his oppressor. The gallows were standing at 
Marksville last January, upon which one was execu- 
ted a year ago for killing his overseer. It occurred 
not many miles from Epps' plantation on Red Kiver. 
The slave was given his task at splitting rails. In 
the course of the day the overseer sent him on an 
en-and, which occu]3ied so much time that it was not 
possible for him to perform the task. The next day 
he was called to an account, but the loss of time oc- 
casioned by the errand was no excuse, and he was 
ordered to kneel and bare his back for the reception 
of the lash. Tliey were in the woods alone — beyond 
the reach of sight or hearing. The boy submitted 
until maddened at such injustice, and insane with 
pain, he sprang to his feet, and seizing an axe, liter- 
ally chopped the overseer in pieces. He made no at- 
tempt whatever at concealment, but hastening to his 
master, related the whole affair, and declared himsell 


ready to expiate the wrong by the sacrifice of his lifc^ 
He was led to the scaflbld, and while the rope was 
around his neck, maintained an undismayed and 
fearless bearing, and with his last words justified tlie 

Besides the overseer, there are drivers under him 
the number being in proportion to the number of 
hands in the field. The drivers are black, who, in 
addition to the performance of their equal share of 
work, are compelled to do the whipping of their 
several gangs. Whips hang around their necks, and 
if they fail to use them thoroughly, are whipped 
themselves. They have a few privileges, however; 
for example, in cane-cutting the hands are not allow- 
ed to sit down long enough to eat their dinnei-s. Carts 
filled with corn cake, cooked at the kitchen, are driv 
en into the field at noon. The cake is distributed by 
the drivers, and must be eaten with the least possible 

"When the slave ceases to persjDire, as he often does 
when taxed beyond his strength, he falls to the ground 
and becomes entirely helpless. It is then the duty 
of the driver to drag him into the shade of the stand- 
ing cotton or cane, or of a neighboring tree, where 
he dashes buckets of water upon him, and uses other 
means of bringing out perspiration again, when he is 
ordered to his place, and compelled to continue his 

At Huff Power, when I first came to Epps', Tom, 
one of Roberts' negroes, was driver. He was a burly 

J* 16 


fellow, and severe in the extreme. After Epps' re- 
moval to Bayou Boeuf, that distinguished honor was 
conferred upon myself. Up to the time of my de- 
parture I had to wear a whip about my neck in the 
field. If Epps was present, I dared not show any 
lenity, not having the Christian fortitude of a certain 
well-known Uncle Tom sufficiently to brave his wrath, 
by refusing to perform the office. In that way, only, 
I escaped the immediate martyrdom he suffered, and, 
withal, saved my companions much suffering, as it 
proved in the end. Epps, I soon found, whether 
actually in the field or not, had his eyes pretty gen- 
erally upon us. From the piazza, from behind some 
adjacent tree, or other concealed point of observation, 
he was perpetually on the watch. If one of us had 
been backward or idle through the day, we were apt 
to be told all about it on returning to the quarters, 
and as it was a matter of principle with him to re- 
prove every offence of that kind that came within his 
knowledge, the offender not only was certain of re- 
ceiving a castigation for his tardiness, but I likewise 
was punished for permitting it. 

If, on the other hand, he had seen me use the lash 
freely, the man was satisfied. " Practice makes per- 
fect," truly ; and during my eight years' experience 
as a driver, I learned to handle the whip wath mar- 
velous dexterity and precision, throwing the lash 
within a hair's breadth of the back, the ear, the nose, 
without, however, touching either of them. If Epps 
was observed at a distance, or we had reason to ap- 


preliend he was sneaking somewhere in the vicinity, 
I would commence plying the lash vigorously, when, 
according to arrangement, they would squirm and 
screech as if in agony, although not one of them had 
in fact been even grazed. Patsey would take occa- 
sion, if he made his appearance presently, to mumble 
in his hearing some complaints that Piatt was lash- 
ing them the whole time, and Uncle Abram, with an 
appearance of honesty peculiar to himself, would de- 
clare roundly I had just whipped them worse than 
General Jackson whipped the enemy at ISfew-Orleans. 
If Epps was not drunk, and in one of his beastly hu- 
mors, this was, in general, satisfactory. If he was, 
some one or more of us must suffer, as a matter of 
course. Sometimes his violence assumed a dangerous 
form, placing the lives of his human stock in jeop- 
ardy. On one occasion the drunken madman thought 
to amuse himself by cutting my throat. 

He had been absent at Ilolmesville, in attendance at 
a shooting-match, and none of us were aware of his 
return. "Wliile hoeing by the side of Patsey, she ex- 
claimed, in a low voice, suddenly, " Piatt, d'ye see 
old Hog-Jaw beckoning me to come to him ?" 

Glancing sideways, I discovered him in the edge 
of the field, motioning and grimacing, as was his habit 
when half-intoxicated. Aware of his lewd intentiorL<=, 
Patsey began to cry. I whispered her not to look uj), 
and to continue at her work, as if she had not ob- 
served him. Suspecting the truth of the matter, 
however, he soon staggered up to me in a great rage. 


*^ vVhcat did you say to Pats ?" be demanded, with 
an oatli. I made him some evasive an'swer, which 
only liad tlie effect of increasing his violence. 

" How long have yon owned this plantation, say, 

YOii (I (1 nigger ?" he inquired, with a malicious 

sneer, at the same time taking hold of my shirt col- 
lar with one hand, and thrusting the other into his 
])ocket. " Now I'll cut your black throat ; that's 
what ril do," drawing his knife from his pocket as 
he said it. But with one hand be was nnable to 
open it, until finally seizing the blade in his teeth, 1 
saw he was about to succeed, and felt the necessity 
of escaping from him, for in his present reckless state, 
it was evident he was not joking, by any means. My 
shirt was open in front, and as I turned ronnd qnickly 
and sprang from him, while he still retained his gripe, 
it was stripped entirely from my back. There was 
no difficulty now in eluding him. He would chase 
me until out of breath, then stop until it was recov- 
ered, swear, and renew the chase again. Now he 
would command me to come to him, now endeavor 
to coax me, but I was careful to keep at a respectful 
distance. In this manner we made the circuit of the 
field several times, he making desperate plunges, and 
I always dodging them, more amused tlian frightened, 
well knowing that when his sober senses returned, 
he would laugh at his own drunken folly. At length 
I observed the mistress standing by the yard fence, 
watching our half-serious, half-comical manoeuvres. 
Shooting past bim, I ran directly to her. Epps, on 


discovering her, did not follow. He remained about 
the iield an hour or more, during which time I stood 
by the mistress, having related the particulars of 
what had taken place. Now, she was aroused again, 
denouncing her husband and Patsey about equally. 
Finally, Epps came towards the house, by this time 
nearly sober, walking demurely, with his hands bo- 
hind his back, and attempting to look as innocent as 
a child. 

As he approached, nevertheless, Mistress EjDps be- 
gan to berate him roundly, heaping upon him many 
rather disrespectful epithets, and demanding for what 
reason he had attempted to cut my throat. Epps 
made wondrous strange of it all, and to my surprise, 
swore by all the saints in the calendar he had not 
spoken to me that day. 

" Piatt you lying nigger, have I ?" was his brazen 
appeal to me. 

It is not safe to contradict a master, even ,by the 
assertion of a truth. So I was silent, and when he en 
tered the house I returned to the field, and the affair 
was never after alluded to. 

Shortly after this time a circumstance occurred that 
came nigh divulging the secret of my real nam.e and 
history, which I had so long and carefully concealed, 
and upon which I was convinced depended my final 
escape. Soon after he purchased me, Epps asked 
me if I could write and read, and on being informed 
that I had received some instruction in those branches 
of education, he assured mc, with empluisis, if he e\^er 


can^^ht me with a book, or witlipen and ink, he would 
give me a linndred lashes. He said he wanted me to 
Tmderstand that he bought " niggers" to work and not 
to educate. He never inquired a word of my past 
life, or from wdience I came. The mistress, however, 
cross-examined me frequently about Washington, 
which she supposed was my native city, and more 
tlian once remarked that I did not talk nor act like 
the other " niggers," and she was sure I had seen more 
of the world than I admitted. 

My great object always was to invent means of get- 
ting a letter secretly into the post-office, directed to 
some of my friends or family at the ^N'orth. The diffi- 
culty of such an achievement cannot be comprehend- 
ed by one unacquainted with the severe restrictions 
imposed upon me. In the first place, I was deprived 
of j»en, ink, and paper. In the second place, a slave 
cannot leave his plantation without a pass, nor will a 
post-master mail a letter for one w^ithout written in- 
structions from his owner. I was in slavery nine 
years, and always watchful and on the alert, before I 
met with the good fortune of obtaining a sheet of pa- 
per. AYliile Epps was in ISTew-Orleans, one winter, 
disposing of his cotton, tlie mistress sent me to Ilolmes- 
ville, with an order for several articles, and among 
tlie rest a quantity of foolscap. I appropriated a sheet 
concealing it in the cabin, under the board on which 
I slept. 

After varioua experiments I succeeded in making 
ink, ])y boiling white maple bark, and with a feather 


^.a«?ived from tlie wing of a duck, manufactured a 
pen. When all were asleep in the cabin, by the light 
of the coals, lying upon my plank couch, I managed 
to complete a somewhat lengthy epistle. It was di- 
rected to an old acquaintance at Sandy Hill, stating 
my condition, and urging him to take measures to re- 
store me to liberty. This letter I kept a long time, 
contriving measures by which it could be safely de- 
posited in the post-office. At length, a low fellow, by 
the n«.me of Armsby, hitherto a stranger, came into 
the neighborhood, seeking a situation as overseer. 
He applied to Epps, and was about the plantation for 
seve: -1 days. He next went over to Shaw's, near by, 
and remained with him several weeks. Shaw was 
genr-^ally surrounded by such worthless characters, 
being himself noted as a gambler and unprincipled 
man. He had made a wife of his slave Charlotte, and 
a bx'ood of young mulattoes were growing up in his 
house. Armsby became so much reduced at last, 
that he was compelled to labor with the slaves. A 
white man working in the field is a rare and unusual 
spectacle on Bayou Boeuf I improved every oppor- 
tunity of cultivating his acquaintance pnvately, de 
siring to obtain his confidence so far as to be willing 
to intrust the letter to his keeping. He visited Marks- 
ville repeatedly, he informed me, a town some twenty- 
miles distant, and there, I proposed to myself, the let- 
ter should be mailed. 

Carefully deliberating on the most proper manner 
of approaching him on the subject, I concluded final- 


Ij to ask him simply if he would deposit a letter for 
me in the Marksville post-office the next time he vis- 
ited that place, without disclosing to him that the let- 
ter was written, or any of the particulars it contained ; 
for I had fears that he might betray me, and knew 
that some inducement must be held out to him of a 
pecuniary nature, before it would be safe to confide 
in him. As late as one o'clock one night I stole noise- 
lessly from my cabin, and, crossing the field to Shaw's, 
found him sleeping on the piazza. I had but a few 
picayunes — the proceeds of my fiddling performan- 
ces, but all I had in the world I promised him if he 
would do me the favor required. I begged him not 
to expose me if he could not grant the request. He 
assured me, upon his honor, he would deposit it in the 
Marksville post-office, and that he would keep it an 
inviolable secret forever. Though the letter was in 
my pocket at the time, I dared not then deliver it to 
him, but stating I would have it written in a day or 
two, bade him good night, and returned to my cab- 
in. It was impossible for me to expel the suspicions 
I entertained, and all night I lay awake, revolving in 
my mind the safest course to pursue. I was willing 
to risk a great deal to accomplish my purpose, but 
should the letter by any means Ml into the hands of 
Epps, it would be a death-blow to my aspirations. I 
was " perplexed in the extreme." 

My suspicions were well-founded, as the sequel de- 
monstrated. The next day but one, while scraping cot- 
Uni in the field, lq)ps seated himself on the line fence 


between Sliaw's plantation and liis own, in sucli a po- 
sition as to overlook the scene of our labors. Pres- 
ently Armsby made his appearance, and, mounting 
the fence, took a seat beside him. They remained 
two or three hours, all of which time I was in an ag- 
ony of apprehension. 

That night, while broiling my bacon, Epps entered 
the cabin with his rawhide in his hand. 

" Well, boy," said he, " I understand I've got a 
larned nigger, that writes letters, and tries to get 
white fellows to mail 'em. Wonder if you know who 
he is ?" 

My worst fears were realized, and although it may 
not be considered entirely creditable, even under the 
circumstances, yet a resort to duplicity and downright 
falsehood was the only refuge that presented itself 

" Don't know nothing about it. Master Epps," I an- 
swered him, assuming an air of ignorance and sur- 
prise ; " Don't know nothing at all about it, sir." 

" Wan't you over to Shaw's night before last ?" he 

" Ko, master," was the reply. 

" Hav'nt you asked that fellow, Armsby, to mail a 
letter for you at Marksville ?" 

" Why, Lord, master, I never spoke three words to 
him in all my life. I don't know what you mean." 

'' Well," he continued, " Armsby told me to-day tlie 
devil was among my niggers ; that I had one tliat 
needed close watching or he would run away ; and 
when I axed him why, he said you come over to 


Shaw's, and waked him up in the night, and wanted 
him to cany a letter to Marksville. What have you 
got to say to that, ha ?" 

" All I've got to say, master," I replied, "is, there 
is no truth in it. How could I write a letter without 
any ink or paper ? There is nobody I want to write 
to, 'cause I haint got no friends living as I know of. 
Til at Armsby is a lying, drunken fellow, they say, and 
nobody believes him anyway. You know I always 
tell the truth, and that I never go off the plantation 
without a pass, l^ow, master, I can see what that 
Armsby is after, plain enough. Did'nt he want you 
to hire him for an overseer ?" 

" Yes, he wanted me to hire him," auswered Epps. 

" That's it," said I, " he wants to make you believe 
we're all going to run away, and then he thinks ^^ou'll 
hire an overseer to watch us. He just made that sto- 
ry out of whole cloth, 'cause he wants to get a situa- 
tion. It's all a he, master, you may depend on't." 

Epps mused awhile, evidently impressed wdth the 
plausibility of my theory, and exclaimed, 

" I'm d— d, Piatt, if I don't believe you tell the 
truth. He must take me for a soft, to think he can 
come it over me with them kind of yarns, musn't he ? 
Maybe he thinks he can fool me ; maybe he thinks 
I don't know nothing — can't take care of my own 
niggers, eh ! Soft soap old Epps, eh ! Ha, ha, ha ! 
D — n Armsby! Set the dogs on him, Piatt," and 
with many other comments descriptive of Armsby's 
freueral character, and his capability of taking care of 


his own business, and attending to his own " niggers," 
Master Epps left the cabin. As soon as he was gone 
I threw the letter in the fire, and, with a desponding 
and despairing heart, beheld the epistle which had 
cost me so much anxiety and thought, and which I 
fondly hoped would have been my forerunner to the 
land of freedom, writhe and shrivel on its bed of coals, 
and dissolve into smoke and ashes. Armsby, the 
treacherous wretch, was di'iven from Shaw's planta- 
tion not long subsequently, much to my relief, for I 
feared he might renew his conversation, and perhaps 
induce Epps to credit him. 

I knew not now whither to look for deliverance. 
Hopes sprang up in my heart only to be crushed and 
blighted. The summer of my life was passing away ; 
I felt I was growing prematurely old ; that a few 
years more, and toil, and grief, and the poisonous mi- 
asmas of the swamps would accomplish their work 
upon me — would consign me to the grave's embrace, 
to moulder and be forgotten. Eepelled, betrayed, cut 
off from the hope of succor, I could only prostrate 
myself upon the earth and groan in unutterable an- 
guish. The hope of rescue was the only light that 
cast a ray of comfort on my heart. That was now 
flickering, faint and low ; another breath of disap 
pointment would extinguish it altogether, leaving me 
to grope in midnight darkness to the end of life. 











The year 1850, down to wliicli time I have now ar- 
rived, omitting many occurrences uninteresting to the 
reader, was an nnhicky year for my companion Wiley, 
the husband of Phebe, whose taciturn and retiring 
nature has thus far kept him in the background. Not- 
withstanding Wiley seldom opened his mouth, and 
revolved in his obscure and unpretending orbit with- 
out a grumble, nevertheless the warm elements of so- 
ciality were strong in the bosom of that silent " nig- 
ger." In the exuberance of his self-reliance, disre- 
garding the philosophy of Uncle Abram, and setting 
the counsels of Aunt Phebe utterly at naught, he had 
the fool-hardiness to essay a nocturnal visit to a neigh- 
boring cabin without a pass. 

Wiley's endisceetion. 237 

So attractive was tlie society in which tie found 
himself, that Wiley took little note of the passing 
hours, and the light began to break in the east before 
he was aware. Speeding homeward as fast as he 
could run, he hoped to reach the quarters before the 
horn would sound ; but, unhappily, he was spied on 
the way by a company of patroUers. 

How it is in other dark places of slavery, I do not 
know, but on Bayou Boeuf there is an organization of 
patrollers, as they are styled, whose business it is to 
seize and whip any slave they may find wandering 
from the plantation. They ride on horseback, headed 
by a captain, armed, and accompanied by dogs. They 
have the right, either by law, or by general consent, 
to inflict discretionary chastisement upon a black man 
caught beyond the boundaries of his master's estate 
without a pass, and even to shoot him, if he attempts 
lo escape. Each company has a certain distance to 
ride up and down the bayou. They are compensated 
by the planters, who contribute in pro]3ortion to the 
number of slaves they own. The clatter of their hor- 
ses' hoofs dashing by can be heard at all hours of the 
night, and frequently they may be seen driving a 
slave before them, or leading him by a rope fastened 
around his neck, to his owner's plantation. 

Wiley fled before one of these companies, thinking 
he could reach his cabin before they could overtake 
him ; but one of their dogs, a great ravenous hound, 
griped him by the leg, and held him fast. The pa- 
trollers whipped him severely, and brought him, a 


prisoner, to Epps. From him he received another 
flagellation still more severe, so that the cuts of the 
lash and the bites of the dog rendered him sore, stiff 
and miserable, insomuch he was scarcely able to move. 
It was impossible in such a state to keep up his row 
and consequently there was not an hour in the day 
but Wiley felt the sting of his master's rawhide on 
his raw and bleeding back. His sufferings became 
intolerable, and finally he resolved to run away. 
"Without disclosing his intentions to run away even 
to his wife Phebe, he proceeded to make arrange- 
ments for carrying his plan into execution. Having 
cooked his whole week's allowance, he cautiously left 
the cabin on a Sunday night, after the inmates of the 
quarters were asleep. When the horn sounded in the 
morning, "Wiley did not make his appearance. Search 
was made for him in the cabins, in the corn-crib, in 
the cotton-house, and in every nook and corner of the 
premises. Each of us was examined, touching any 
knowledge we might have that could throw light upon 
his sudden disappearance or present whereabouts. 
Epps raved and stormed, and mounting his horse, gal- 
loped to neighboring plantations, making inquiries 
in all directions. The search was fruitless. JSTothinoj 
whatever was elicited, going to show what had be- 
come of the missing man. Tlie dogs were led to the 
swamp, but were unable to strike his trail. They 
would circle away through the forest, their noses to 
the ground, but invariably returned in a short time 
to the spot from whence they started. 


Wiley had escaped, and so secretly and cantionslj 
as to elude and baffle all pursuit. Days and even 
weeks passed away, and nothing could be heard of 
him. Epps did nothing but curse and swear. It was 
the only topic of conversation among us when alone. 
We indulged in a great deal of speculation in regard 
to him, one suggesting he might have been drowned 
in some bayou, inasmuch as he was a poor swimmer ; 
another, that perhaps he might have been devoured 
by alligators, or stung by the venomous moccasin, 
whose bite is certain and sudden death. The warm 
and hearty sympathies of us all, however, were 
with poor Wiley, wherever he might be. Many an 
earnest prayer ascended from the lips of Uncle Abram, 
beseeching safety for the wanderer. 

hi about three weeks, when all hope of ever seeing 
him again was dismissed, to our surprise, he one day 
appeared among us. On leaving the plantation, he 
informed us, it was his intention to make his way 
back to South Carolina — to the old quarters of Mas- 
ter Buford. During the day he remained secreted, 
sometimes in the branches of a tree, and at night 
pressed forward through the swamps. Finally, one 
morning, just at dawn, he reached the shore of Red 
River. While standing on the bank, considering how 
he could cross it, a white man accosted him, and de- 
manded a pass. Without one, and evidently a runa- 
way, he was taken to Alexandria, tlie shire town of 
the parish of Rapides, and confined in prison. It 
happened several days after that Josepli B. Roberts, 


nncle of Mistress Epps, was in Alexandria, and going 
into the jail, recognized liim. Wiley had worked ou 
his plantation, when Epps resided at Huff Power. 
Paying the jail fee, and writing him a pass, under- 
neath which was a note to Epps, requesting him not 
to whip him on his return, Wiley was sent back to 
Bayou Boeuf. It was the hope that hung upon this 
request, and which Roberts assured him would be re- 
spected by his master, that sustained him as he ap- 
proached the house. The request, however, as may 
be readily supposed, was entirely disregarded. After 
being kept in suspense three days, Wiley was stripped, 
and compelled to endure one of those inhuman flog- 
gings to which the poor slave is so often subjected. 
It was the first and last attempt of Wiley to run away. 
Tlie long scars upon his back, which he will carry 
with him to the grave, perpetually remind him of the 
dangers of such a step. 

There was not a day throughout the ten years I be- 
longed to Epps that I did not consult with myself upon 
the prospect of escape. I laid many plans, which at 
the time I considered excellent ones, but one after the 
other they were all abandoned. 'No man who has 
never been placed in such a situation, can comprehend 
the thousand obstacles thrown in theway of the flying 
slave. Every white man's hand is raised against him 
■ — the patrollers are watching for him — the hounds 
are ready to follow on his track, and the nature of 
the country is such as renders it impossible to pass 
through it with any safety. I thought, however, that 


the time might come, perhaps, when I should be run- 
ning tln-ough the swamps again. I concluded, in that 
case, to be prepared for Epps' dogs, should they pur- 
sue me. He possessed several, one of which was a 
notorious slave-hunter, and the most fierce and savage 
of his breed. _ While out hunting the coon or the 
opossum, I never allowed an opportunity to escape, 
when alone, of whipping them severely. In this man- 
ner I succeeded at length in subduing them com- 
pletely. Tliey feared me, obeying my voice at once 
when others had no control over them whatever. 
Had they followed and overtaken me, I doubt not 
they would have shrank from attacking me. 

^Notwithstanding the certainty of being captured, 
the woods and swamps are, nevertheless, continually 
filled with runaways. Many of them, when sick, or 
BO worn out as to be unable to perform their tasks, 
escape into the swamps, willing to suflFer the punish- 
ment inflicted for such oflfences, in order to obtain a 
day or two of rest. 

While I belonged to Ford, I was unwittingly the 
means of disclosing the hiding-place of six or eight, 
who had taken up their residence in the " Great Pine 
Woods." Adam Taydem frequently sent me from 
the mills over to the opening after provisions. The 
whole distance was then a thick pine forest. About 
ten o'clock of a beautiful moonlight night, wliile 
walking along the Texas road, returning to the mills, 
carrying a dressed pig in a bag swung over my 
shoulder, I heard footsteps behind me, and turning 
K 16 


round, beheld two black men in the dress of slaves 
approaching at a rapid pace. When within a short 
distance, one of them raised a club, as if intending to 
strike me ; the other snatched at the bag. I managed 
to dodge them both, and seizing a pine knot, hurled 
t with such force against the head of one of them 
that he was prostrated apparently senseless to the 
ground. Just then two more made their appearance 
from one side of the road. Before they could grapple 
me, however, I succeeded in passing them, and taking 
to my heels, fled, much afirighted, towards the mills. 
When Adam was informed of the adventure, he 
hastened straight^way to the Indian village, and arous- 
ing Cascalla and several of his tribe, started in pur- 
suit of the highwaymen. I accompanied them to the 
scene of attack, when we discovered a puddle of 
blood in the road, where the man whom I had smit- 
ten with the pine knot had fallen. After searching 
carefully through the woods a long time, one of Cas- 
calla's men discovered a smoke curling up through 
the branches of several prostrate pines, whose tops 
had fallen together. The rendezvous was cautiously 
surrounded, and all of them taken prisoners. Tliey 
had escaped from a plantation in the vicinity of La- 
mourie, and had been secreted there three weeks. 
Tliey had no evil design upon me, except to frighten 
me out of my pig. Having observed me passing 
towards Ford's just at night-fall, and suspecting the 
nature of my errand, they had followed me, seen me 
biUcher and dress the porker, and start on my return. 


Tliey liad been pinched for food, and were ariven 
to this extremity bj necessity. Adam conveyed 
them to the parish jail, and was liberally rewarded. 

ISTot imfrequently the runaway loses his life in the 
attempt to escape. Epps' premises were bounded Cr 
one side by Carey's, a very extensive sugar planta- 
tion. He cultivates annually at least fifteen hundred 
acres of cane, manufacturing twenty-two or twenty- 
three hundred hogsheads of sugar ; an hogshead and 
a half being the usual yield of an acre. Besides this 
he also cultivates five or six hundred acres of com and 
cotton. He owned last year one hundred and fifty 
three field hands, besides nearly as many children, and 
yearly hires a drove during the busy season from this 
side the Mississippi. 

One of his negro drivers, a pleasant, intelligenl 
boy, was named Augustus. During the holidays, and 
occasionally while at work in adjoining fields, I had 
an opportunity of making his acquaintance, which 
eventually ripened into a warm and mutual attach- 
ment. Summer before last he was so unfortunate as 
to incur the displeasure of the overseer, a coarse, 
heartless brute, who whipped him most cruelly. Au- 
gustus ran away. Keaching a cane rick on Hawkins' 
plantation, he secreted himself in the top of it. All 
Carey's dogs were put upon his track — some fifteen 
of them — and soon scented his footsteps to the hiding 
place. They surrounded the rick, baying and scratch- 
ing, but could not reach him. Presently, guided by 
the clamor of the hounds, the pursuers rode up, when 


the overseer, mounting on to the rick, drew him forth. 
As he rolled down to the ground the whole pack 
plunged upon him, and before they could be beaten 
off, had gnawed and mutilated his body in the most 
shocking manner, their teeth having penetrated to 
the bone in an hundred places. He was taken up, 
tied upon a mule, and carried home. But this was 
Augustus' last trouble. He lingered until the next 
day, when death sought the unhappy boy, and kindly 
relieved him from his agony. 

It was not unusual for slave women as well as slave 
men to endeavor to escape. IN'elly, Eldret's girl, with 
whom I lumbered for a time in the "Big Cane 
Brake," lay concealed in Epps' com crib three days. 
At night, when his family were asleep, she would 
steal into the quarters for food, and return: to the crib 
again. We concluded it would no longer be safe for 
us to allow her to remain, and accordingly she re 
traced lier steps to her own cabin. 

But the most remarkable instance of a successful 
evasion of dogs and hunters was the following: 
Among Carey's girls was one by the name of Celeste, 
She was nineteen or twenty, and far whiter than her 
owner, or any of his offspring. It required a close 
inspection to distinguish in her features the slightest 
trace of African blood. A stranger would never 
Iiave dreamed that she was the descendant of slaves. 
I was sitting in my cabin late at night, playing a low 
air on my violin, when the door opened carefully, and 
Celeste stood before me. She was pale and haggard. 


Had an apparition arisen from the earth, I could not 
have been more startled. 

" Who are yon ?" I demanded, after gazing at her 
a moment. 

" I'm hungry ; give me some bacon," was her reply. 

My first impression was that she was some de- 
ranged young mistress, who, escaping from home, was 
wandering, she knew not whither, and had been 
attracted to my cabin by the sound of the violin. 
The coarse cotton slave dress she wore, however, soon 
dispelled such a supposition. 

" What is your name ?" I again interrogated. 

" My name is Celeste," she answered. " I belong 
to Carey, and have been two days among the pal- 
mettoes. I am sick and can't work, and would rather 
die in the swamp than be whipped to death by the 
overseer. Carey's dogs won't follow me. They have 
tried to set them on. There's a secret between them 
and Celeste, and they wont mind the devilish orders 
of the overseer. Give me some meat — I'm starving." 

I divided my scanty allowance with her, and while 
partaking of it, she related how she had managed to 
escape, and described the place of her concealment. 
In the edge of the swamp, not half a mile from Epps' 
house, was a large space, thousands of acres in 
extent, thickly covered with palmetto. Tall trees, 
whose long arms interlocked each other, formed a 
canopy above them, so dense as to exclude the beams 
of the sun. It was like twilight always, even in the 
middle of the brightest day. In the centre of this 


great space, which nothing but serpents very often 
explore — a sombre and solitary spot — Celeste had 
erected a rude hut of dead branches that had fallen 
to the ground, and covered it with the leaves of the 
palmetto. This was the abode she had selected. 
She had no fear of Carey's dogs, any more than I had 
of Epps'. It is a fact, which I have never been able 
to explain, that there are those whose tracks the 
hounds will absolutely refuse to follow. Celeste was 
one of them. 

For several nights she came to my cabin for food. 
On one occasion our dogs barked as she approached, 
which aroused Epps, and induced him to reconnoitre 
the premises. He did not discover her, but after that 
it was not deemed prudent for her to come to the 
yard. Wlien all was silent I carried provisions to a 
certain spot agreed upon, where she would find them. 

In this manner Celeste passed the greater part of 
the summer. She regained her health, and became 
strong and hearty. At all seasons of the year the 
bowlings of wild animals can be heard at night along 
the borders of the swamps. Several times they had 
made her a midnight call, awakening her from slum- 
ber with a growl. Terrified by such unpleasant salu- 
tations, she finally concluded to abandon her lonely 
dwelling ; and, accordingly, returning to her master, 
was scourged, her neck meanwhile being fastened in 
the stocks, and sent into the field ao:ain. 

The year before my arrival in the country there 
was a concerted movement amono^ a number of slaves 


on Bayou Boeuf, tliat terminated tragically indeed. 
It was, I presume, a matter of newspaper notoriety at 
the time, but all the knowledge I have of it, has been 
derived from the relation of those living at that period 
in the immediate vicinity of the excitement. It has 
become a subject of general and unfailing interest in 
every slave-hut on the bayou, and will doubtless go 
down to succeeding generations as their chief tradi 
tion. Lew Cheney, with whom I became acquainted 
• — a shrewd, cunning negro, more intelligent than the 
generality of his race, but unscrupulous and full of 
treachery — conceived the project of organizing a com- 
pany sufficiently strong to fight their way against all 
opposition, to the neighboring territory of Mexico. 

A remote spot, far within the depths of the swamp 
back of Hawkins' plantation, was selected as the ral 
lying point. Lew flitted from one plantation to an 
other, in the dead of night, preaching a crusade tc 
Mexico, and, like Peter the Hermit, creating a furor 
of excitement wherever he appeared. At length a 
large number of runaways were assembled; stolen 
mules, and corn gathered from the fields, and bacon 
filched from smoke-houses, had been conveyed into 
the woods. The expedition was about ready to pro- 
ceed, when their hiding place was discovered. Lew 
Cheney, becoming convinced of the ultimate failure 
of his project, in order to curry favor with his master, 
and avoid the consequences which he foresaw would 
follow, deliberately determined to sacrifice all his 
companions. Departing secretly from the encamp- 


ment, lie proclaimed among the planters the numbei 
collected in tlie swamp, and, instead of stating truly 
the object iiey had in view, asserted their intention 
was to emerge from their seclusion the first favorable 
opportunity, and murder every white person along the 

Such an announcement, exaggerated as it passed 
from mouth to mouth, filled the whole country with 
terror. The fugitives were surrounded and taken pris- 
oners, carried in chains to Alexandria, and hung by 
the populace. ISTot only those, but many who were 
suspected, though entirely innocent, were taken from 
the field and from the cabin, and without the shadow 
of process or form of trial, hurried to the scaffold. 
The planters on Bayou Boeuf finally rebelled against 
such reckless destruction of property, but it was not 
until a regiment of soldiers had arrived from some 
fort on the Texan frontier, demolished the gallows, 
and opened the doors of the Alexandria prison, that 
the indiscriminate slaughter was stayed. Lew Che- 
ney escaped, and was even rewarded for his treachery. 
He is still living, but his name is despised and exe- 
crated by all his race throughout the parishes of 
Eapides and Avoyelles. 

Such an idea as insurrection, however, is not new 
among the enslaved population of Bayou Boeuf. More 
tlian once I have joined in serious consultation, when 
the subject has been discussed, and there have been 
times when a word from me would have placed hun- 
dreds of my fellow-bondsmen in an attitude of defi- 


ance. "Without arms or ammunition, or even with 
them, I saw sucli a step would result in certain defeat, 
disaster and death, and always raised my voice 
against it. 

During the Mexican war I well remember the ex 
travagant hopes that were excited. The news of vie 
tory filled the great house with rejoicing, but pro- 
duced only sorrow and disappointment in the cabin. 
In my opinion — and I have had opportunity to know 
something of the feeling of which I speak — there are 
not fifty slaves on the shores of Bavou Boeuf, but 
would hail with unmeasured delight the approach of 
an invading army. 

Tliey are deceived who flatter themselves that the 
ignorant and debased slave has no conception of the 
magnitude of his wrongs. They are deceived who 
imagine that he arises from his knees, with back la- 
cerated and bleeding, cherishing only a spirit of meek- 
ness and forgiveness. A day may come — it will 
come, if his prayer is heard — a terrible day of ven- 
geance, when the master in his turn will cry in vain 
for mercy. 











Wiley suffered severely at the liands of Master 
Epps, as lias been related in the preceding chapter, 
but in this respect he fared no worse than his unfor- 
tunate companions. " Spare the rod," was an idea 
scouted by our master. He was constitutionally sub- 
ject to periods of ill-humor, and at such times, how- 
ever little provocation there might be, a certain 
amount of punishment was inflicted. Tlie circum 
stances attending the last flogging but one that I re- 
ceived, will show how trivial a cause was suflicient 
with him for resorting to the whip. 

A Mr. O'Niel, residing in the vicinity of the Big 
Pine Woods, called npon Epps for the purpose of pui'- 


cLasiiig me. He was a tanner and currier by occu- 
pation, transacting an extensive business, and intend- 
ed to place me at service in some department of his 
establishment, provided he bought me. Aunt Phebe, 
while preparing the dinner-table in the great house, 
overheard their conversation. On returning to the 
yard at night, the old woman ran to meet me, design- 
ing, of course, to overwhelm me with the news. She 
entered into a minute repetition of all she had heard, 
and Aunt Phebe was one whose ears never failed to 
drink in every word of conversation uttered in her 
hearing. She enlarged upon the fact that "Massa 
Epps was g'wine to sell me to a tanner ober in de 
Pine Woods," so long and loudly as to attract the at- 
tention of the mistress, who, standing unobserved on 
the piazza at the time, was listening to our conver- 

" Well, Aunt Phebe," said I, " Fm glad of it I'm 
tired of scraping cotton, and would rather be a tanner. 
I hope he'll buy me." 

O'JSTiel did not effect a purchase, however, the par- 
ties differing as to price, and the morning following 
his arrival, departed homewards. He had been gone 
but a short time, when Epps made his appearance in 
the field. Kow nothing will more violently enrage a 
master, especially Epps, than the intimation of one of 
his servants that he would like to leave him. Mis- 
tress Epps had repeated to him my expressions to 
Aunt Phebe the evening previous, as I learned from 
the latter afterwards, the mistress having mentioned 


to lier tlicat she had overheard us. On entering the 
Held, Epps walked directly to me. 

" So, Piatt, you're tired of scraping cotton, are yon ? 
You would like to change your master, eh ? You're 
fond of moving round — traveler — ain't ye ? Ah, 
yes — like to travel for your health, may be? Feel 
above cotton-scraping, I 'spose. So you're going into 
the tanning business ? Good business — devilish fine 
business. Enterprising nigger f B'lieve I'll go into 
that business myself. Down on your knees, and strip 
that rag off your back ! I'll try my hand at tanning." 

I begged earnestly, and endeavored to soften him 
with excuses, but in vain. There was no other alter- 
native ; so kneeling dow^n, I presented my bare back 
for the application of the lash. 

" How do you like tanning f he exclaimed, as the 
rawhide descended upon my flesh. " How do you 
like tcmning f " he repeated at every blow. In this 
manner he gave me twenty or thirty lashes, inces- 
santly giving utterance to the word " tanning," in one 
form of expression or another. When sufficiently 
" tanned," he allowed me to arise, and with a half- 
malicious laugh assured me, if I still fancied the busi- 
ness, he would give me further instruction in it when- 
ever I desired. This time, he remarked, he had only 
given me a short lesson in " tcmning " — the next time 
he would " curry me down." 

Uncle Abram, also, was frequently treated with 
great brutality, although he was one of the kindest 
and most faithful creatures in the world. He was my 


.vbin-mate for years. Tliere was a benevolent ex- 
pression in the old man's face, pleasant to behold. 
He regarded us with a kind of parental feeling, always 
counseling us with remarkable gravity and delibe- 

Eeturning from Marshall's plantation one afternoon, 
whither I had been sent on some errand of the mis- 
tress, I found him lying on the cabin floor, his clothes 
saturated with blood. Pie informed me that he had 
been stabbed ! Wliile spreading cotton on the scaf- 
fold, Epps came home intoxicated from Holmesville. 
He found fault with every thing, giving many orders 
so directly contrary that it w^as impossible to execute 
any of them. Uncle Abram, whose faculties were 
growing dull, became confused, and committed some 
blunder of no particular consequence. Epps- was so 
enraged thereat, that, with drunken recklessness, he 
flew upon the old man, and stabbed him in the back. 
It w^as a long, ugly wound, but did not happen to 
penetrate far enough to result fatally. It was sewed 
up by the mistress, who censured her husband with 
extreme severity, not only denouncing his inhumanity, 
but declaring that she expected nothing else than that 
he would bring the family to poverty — that he would 
kill all the slaves on the plantation in some of his 
drunken fits. 

It was no uncommon thing witli him to prostrate 
Aunt Phebe with a chair or stick of wood ; but the 
most cruel whipping that ever I was doomed to wit- 
ness — one I can never recall with anv otlier emotion 


than tliat of horror — was inflicted on the unfortunate 

It has been seen that the jealousy and hatred of 
Mistress Epps made the daily life of her young and 
agile slave completely miserable. I am happy in the 
belief that on numerous occasions I was the means of 
averting punishment from the inoffensive girl. In 
Epi^s' absence the mistress often ordered me to whip 
lier without the remotest provocation. I would refuse, 
saying that I feared my master's displeasure, and sev- 
eral times ventured to remonstrate with her against 
the treatment Patsey received. I endeavored to im- 
press her with the truth that the latter was not re- 
sponsible for the acts of which she complained, but 
tliat she being a slave, and subject entirely to her 
master's will, he alone was answerable. 

At length " the green-eyed monster " crept into the 
Boul of Epps also, and then it was that he joined with 
his wrathful wife in an infernal jubilee over the girl's 

On a Sabbath day in hoeing time, not long ago, we 
were on the bayou bank, washing our clothes, as was 
our usual custom. Presently Patsey was missing 
Epps called aloud, but there was no answer. JSTo one 
liad observed her leaving the yard, and it was a won- 
der with us whither she had gone. In the course of 
a couple of hours she was seen approaching from the 
direction of Shaw's. This man, as has been intima- 
ted, was a notorious profligate, and withal not on the 
most friendly terms with Epps. Harriet, his black 

patset's return from shaw's. 255 

wife, knowing Patsej's troubles, was kind to her, in 
consequence of wliicli the latter was in the habit of 
going over to see her every opportunity. Her visits 
were prompted by friendship merely, but the suspi- 
cion gradually entered the brain of Epps, that another 
and a baser passion led her thither — that it was not 
Harriet she desired to meet, but rather the unblush- 
ing libertine, his neighbor. Patsey found her master 
in a fearful rage on her return. His violence so 
alarmed her that at first she attempted to evade direct 
answers to his questions, which only served to increase 
his suspicions. She finally, however, drew herself up 
proudly, and in a spirit of indignation boldly denied 
his charges. 

" Missus don't give me soap to wash with, as she 
does the rest," said Patsey, " and you know why. I 
went over to Harriet's to get a piece," and saying this, 
she drew it forth from a pocket in her dress and ex- 
hibited it to him. ^' That's what I went to Shaw's for, 
Massa Epps," continued she ; " the Lord knows that 
was all." 

" You lie, you black wench ! " shouted Epps. 

" I donH lie, massa. If you kill me, I'll stick to that." 

" Oh ! I'll fetch you down. I'll learn you to go to 
Shaw's. I'll take the starch out of ye," he muttered 
fiercely through his shut teeth. 

Then turning to me, he ordered four stakes to be 
driven into the ground, pointing with the toe of his 
boot to the places where he wanted them. When the 
stakes were driven down, he ordered her to be strip- 


ped of every article of dress. Kopes were tLen 
brouglit, and the naked girl was laid upon lier face, 
her wrists and feet each tied firmly to a stake. Step- 
ping to the piazza, he took down a heavy whip, and 
placing it in my hands, commanded me to lash her. 
Unpleasant as it was, I was compelled to obey him. 
Kowhere that day, on the face of the whole earth, I 
venture to say, was there such a demoniac exhibition 
witnessed as then ensued. 

Mistress Epps stood on the piazza amongi her chil- 
dren, gazing on the scen^ -vith an air of heartless sat- 
isfaction. The slaves were Auddled together at a lit- 
tle distance, their countenances indicating the sorrow 
of their hearts. Poor Patsey prayed piteously for 
mercy, but her prayers were vain. Epps ground his 
teeth, and stamped upon the ground, screaming at me, 
like a mad fiend, to strike harder. 

" Strike harder, or yoior turn will come next, you 
scoundrel," he yelled. 

" Oil, mercy, massa ! — oh! have mercy, do. Oh, 
God ! pity me," Patsey exclaimed continually, strug- 
gling fruitlessly, and the flesh quivering at every 

When I had struck her as many as thirty times, 1 
stopped, and turned round toward Epps, hoping he 
was satisfied ; but with bitter oaths and threats, he 
ordered me to continue. I inflicted ten or fifteen 
blows more. By this time her back was covered with 
long welts, intersecting each other like net work. 
I'^pps was yet furious and savage as ever, demanding 



If she would like to go to Shaw's again, and swear- 
ing he would flog her until she wished she was in h — 1. 
Throwing down the whip, I declared I could punish 
her no more. He ordered nie to go on, threatening 
me with a severer flogging than she had received, in 
case of refusal. Mj heart revolted at the inhuman 
scene, and risking the consequences, I absolutely re- 
fused to raise the whip. He then seized it himself, 
and applied it with ten-fold greater force than I had. 
The painful cries and shrieks of the tortured Patsey, 
minghng with the loud and angry curses of Epps, 
loaded the air. She was terribly lacerated — I may 
say, without exaggeration, literally flayed. The 
lash was wet with blood, which flowed down her 
sides and dropjDed upon the ground. At length she 
ceased struggling. Her head sank listlessly on the 
ground. Her screams and supplications gradually 
decreased and died away into a low moan. She no 
longer writhed and shrank beneath the lash when it bit 
out small pieces of her flesh. I thought that she was 
dying ! 

It was the Sabbath of the Lord. The fields smiled 
in the warm sunlight — ^the birds chirped merrily 
amidst the foliage of the trees — peace and happiness 
seemed to reign everywhere, save in the bosoms of 
Epps and his panting victim and the silent witnesses 
around him. The tempestuous emotions that were 
raging there were little in harmony with the calm 
and quiet beauty of the day. I could look on E])p3 

only with unutterable loathing and abhorrence, and 



thonglit within myself—" Tliou devil, sooner or later, 
somewhere in the course of eternal justice, thou shalt 
answer for this sin ! " 

Finally, he ceased whipping from mere exhaustion, 
and ordered Phebe to bring a bucket of salt and wa- 
ter. After washing her thoroughly with this, I was 
told to take her to her cabin. Untying the ropes, I 
raised her in my arms. She was unable to stand, and 
as her head rested on my shoulder, she repeated ma- 
ny times, in a faint voice scarcely perceptible, " Oh, 
Piatt — oh, Piatt!" but nothing further. Her dress 
was replaced, but it clung to her back, and was soon 
stiff with blood. We laid her on some boards in the 
hut, where she remained a long time, with eyes closed 
and groaning in agony. At night Phebe applied 
melted tallow to her wounds, and so far as we were 
able, all endeavored to assist and console her. Day 
after day she lay in her cabin upon her face, the sores 
preventing her resting in any other position. 

A blessed thing it would have been for her — days 
and weeks and months of misery it would have saved 
her — had she never lifted up her head in life again. 
Indeed, from that time forward she was not w^hat she 
had been. Tlie burden of a deep melancholy weigh- 
ed heavily on her spirits. She no longer moved with 
that buoyant and elastic step — there was not that 
mirthful sparkle in her eyes that formerly distin- 
guished her. The bounding vigor — the sprightly, 
laughter-loving spirit of her youth, were gone. She 
fell into a mournful and desponding mood, and often- 


times would start up in her sleep, and with raised 
hands, plead for mercy. She became more silent 
than she was, toiling all day in our midst, not uttering 
a word. A care-worn, pitiful expression settled on 
her face, and it was her humor now to weep, rather 
than rejoice. If ever there was a broken heart — 
one crushed and blighted by the rude grasp of suffer- 
ing and misfortune — it was Patsey's. 

She had been reared no better than her master's 
beast — looked upon merely as a valuable and hand- 
some animal — and consequently possessed but a lim 
ited amount of knowledge. And yet a faint light 
cast its rays over her intellect, so that it was not 
wholly dark. She had a dim perception of God and 
of eternity, and a still more dim perception of a Sav- 
iour who had died even for such as her. She enter 
tained but confused notions of a future life — not com- 
prehending the distinction between the corporeal and 
spiritual existence. Happiness, in her mind, was ex- 
emption from stripes — from labor — from the cruelty 
of masters and overseei*s. Her idea of the joy of 
heaven was simply rest^ and is fully expressed in these 
lines of a melancholy bard : 

" I ask no paradise on high, 
With cares on earth oppressed, 

The only heaven for which I sigh, 
Is rest, eternal rest." 

It is a mistaken opinion that prevails in some quar- 
ters, that the slave does not understand the term — 
does not comprehend the idea of freedom. Even on 


Bayou Boeiif, wliere I conceive slavery exists in ita 
most abject and cruel form — where it exhibits fea- 
tures altogether unknown in more northern States — 
the most ignorant of them generally know full well 
its meaning. They understand the privileges and 
exemptions that belong to it — that it would bestow 
upon them i\\e fruits of their own labors, and that it 
would secure to them the enjoyment of domestic hap- 
piness. They do not fail to observe the difference 
between their own condition and the meanest white 
man's, and to realize the injustice of the laws which 
place it in his power not only to appropriate the 
profits of their industry, but to subject them to un- 
merited and unprovoked punishment, without reme- 
dy, or the right to resist, or to remonstrate. 

Patsey's life, especially after her whipping, was one 
long dream of liberty. Far away, to her fancy an 
immeasurable distance, she knew there was a land of 
freedom. A thousand times she had heard that 
somewhere in the distant North there were no 
slaves — no masters. In her imagination it was an 
enchanted region, the Paradise of the earth. To dwell 
where the black man may work for himself — live in 
his own cabin — till his own soil, was a blissful dream 
of Patsey's — a dream, alas ! the fulfillment of which 
she can never realize. 

The effect of these exhibitions of brutality on the 
liousehold of the slave-holder, is apparent. Epps' 
oldest son is an intelligent lad of ten or twelve years 
of age. It is pitiable, sometimes, to see him clias- 


tising, for instance, tlie venerable Uncle Abram. He 
will call the old man to account, and if in liis cliild- 
isli judgment it is necessary, sentence liim to a cer- 
tain number of laslies, wliicli lie proceeds to inflict 
with much gravity and deliberation. Mounted on his 
pony, he often rides into the field with his whip, play- 
ing the overseer, greatly to his father's deliglit. 
Without discrimination, at such times, he aj)plies the 
rawhide, urging the slaves forward with shouts, and 
occasional expressions of profanity, while the old man 
laughs, and commends him as a thorough-going boy. 

" The child is father to the man," and with such 
training, whatever may be his natural disposition, it 
cannot well be otherwise than that, on arriving at ma- 
turity, the suflferings and miseries of the slave will 
be looked upon with entire indifi'erence. The influ- 
ence of the iniquitous system necessarily fosters an 
unfeeling and cruel spirit, even in the bosoms of those 
who, among their equals, are regarded as humane 
and generous. 

Young Master Epps possessed some noble qualities, 
yet no process of reasoning could lead him to com- 
prehend, that in the eye of the Almighty there is no 
distinction of color. He looked upon the black man 
simply as an animal, differing in no respect from any 
other animal, save in the gift of speech and the pos- 
session of somewhat higher instincts, and, therefore, 
the more valuable. To work like his father's mules — 
to be whipped and kicked and scourged through life — 
to address the white man with hat in hand, and eyes 


bent servilely on tlie earth, in his mind, was the natu- 
ral and proper destiny of the slave. Brought up with 
such ideas — in the notion that we stand without the 
pale of humanity — no wonder the oppressors of my 
people are a pitiless and unrelenting race. 












In the montli of June, 1852, in pursuance of a pre- 
vious contract, Mr. Avery, a carpenter of Bayou 
Rouge, commenced the erection of a house for Mas- 
ter Epps. It has previously been stated that there 
are no cellars on Bayou Boeuf ; on the other hand, 
such is the low and swampy nature of the ground, 
the great houses are usually built upon spiles. An- 
other peculiarity is, the rooms are not plastered, but 
the ceiling and sides are covered with matched cy- 
press boards, painted such color as most pleases the 
owner's taste. Generally the plank and boards are 
sawed by slaves with whip-saws, there being no water- 
power upon which mills might be built within many 
miles. When the planter erects for himself a dwel- 
ling, therefore, there is ])]enty of cxtr;i work for his 

2^j4 tw::lve years a slave. 

slaves. Having liad some experience under Tibeats 
as a carpenter, I was taken from tlie field altogether, 
on the arrival of Averj and his hands. 

Among them was one to whom I owe an immeas- 
urable debt of gratitude. Only for him, in all prob- 
ability, I should have ended my days in slavery. He 
was my deliverer — a man whose true heart over- 
flowed with noble and generous emotions. To the 
last moment of my existence I shall remember him 
with feelings of thankfulness. His name was Bass, 
and at that time he resided in Marksville. It will 
be difficult to convey a correct impression of his ap- 
pearance or character. He was a large man, between 
forty and fifty years old, of light complexion and 
light hair. He was very cool and self-possessed, fond 
of argument, but always speaking with extreme de- 
liberation. He was that kind of person whose pecu- 
liarity of manner was such that nothing he uttered 
ever gave ofi'ence. Wliat would be intolerable, com- 
ing from the lips of another, could be said by him 
with impunity. There was not a man on Eed Eiver, 
perhaps, that agreed with him on the subject of poli- 
tics or religion, and not a man, I venture to say, w^ho 
discussed either of those subjects half as much. It 
seemed to be taken for granted that he would espouse 
the unpopular side of every local question, and it al- 
ways created amusement rather than displeasure 
among liis auditors, to listen to the ingenious and 
original manner in which he maintained the contro- 
versy. He was a bachelor — an " old bachelor," ac- 


cording to the true acceptation of the term — having 
no kindred living, as he knew of, in the world. Nei- 
ther had he any permanent abiding place — wander- 
ing from one State to another, as his fancy dictated. 
He had lived in Marksville three or four years, and 
in the prosecution of his business as a carpenter ; and 
in consequence, likewise, of his peculiarities, was 
quite, extensively known throughout the parish of 
Avoyelles. He was liberal to a fault ; and his many 
acts of kindness and transparent goodness of heart 
rendered him popular in the community, the senti- 
ment of which he unceasingly combated. 

He was ^ native of Canada, from w^hence he had 
wandered in early life, and after visiting all the prin- 
cipal localities in the northern and western States, in 
the course of his peregrinations, arrived in the un- 
healthy region of the Red River. His last removal 
was from Illinois. Whither he has now gone, I re- 
gret to be obliged to say, is unknown to me. He 
gathered up his effects and departed quietly from 
Marksville the day before I did, the suspicions of his 
instrumentality in procuring my liberation rendering 
such a step necessary. For tlie commission of a just 
and righteous act he would undoubtedly have suffer- 
ed death, had he remained within reach of the slave- 
whipping tribe on Bayou Boeuf. 

One day, while working on the new house, Bass 

and Epps became engaged in a controversy, to which, 

as will be readily supposed, I listened with absorbing 

interest. They were discussing the subject of Slavery 



" I tell you wliat it is Epps," said Bass, " it's all 
wrong — all wrong, sir — there's no justice nor right- 
eousness in it. I wouldn't own a slave if I was rich 
as Croesus, which I am not, as is perfectly well under- 
stood, more particularly among my creditors. There's 
another humbug — the credit system — humbug, sir ; 
no credit — no debt. Credit leads a man into tempta- 
tion. Cash down is the only thing that will deliver 
him from evil. But this question of Slavery j what 
right have you to your niggers when you come down 
to the point?" 

" What right ! " said Epps, laughing ; " why, 1 
bought 'em, and paid for 'em." 

Of course you did ; the law says you have the right 
to hold a nigger, but begging the law's pardon, it 
lies. Yes, Epps, when the law says that it's a liar^ 
and the truth is not in it. Is every thing right be- 
cause the law allows it ? Suppose they'd pass a law 
taking away your liberty and making you a slave ?" 

" Oh, that ain't a supposable case," said Epps, still 
laughing ; " hope you don't compare me to a nigger, 

" Well," Bass answered gravely, " no, not exactly. 
But I have seen niggers before now as good as I am, 
and I have no acquaintance with any white man in 
these parts that I consider a whit better than myself. 
Now, in the sight of God, what is the difference, 
Epps, between a white man and a black one ?" 

" All tlie difference in t]ie world," replied Epps. 
" You xniglit as well ask what the difference is be- 


tween a white man and a baboon. Kow, I've seen 
^ne of tbem critters in Orleans that knowed just as 
nucli as any nigger I've got. You'd call them feller 
citizens, I s'pose ? " — and Epps indulged in a loud 
laugh at his own wit. 

" Look here, Epps," continued his companion ; " you 
can't laugh me down in that way. Some men are 
witty, and some ain't so witty as they think they are. 
Now let me ask you a question. Are all men created 
free and equal as the Declaration of Independence 
holds they are ? " 

" Yes," responded Epps, " but all men, niggers, and 
monkeys ainH ; " and hereupon he broke forth into a 
more boisterous laugh than before. 

" There are monkeys among white people as well 
as black, when you come to that," coolly remarked 
Eass. " I know some white men that use arguments 
no sensible monkey would. But let that pass. These 
niggers are human beings. If they don't know as 
much as their masters, whose fault is it ? They are 
not allowed to know anything. You have books and 
papers, and can go where you please, and gather 
intelligence in a thousand ways. But your slaves 
have no privileges. You'd whip one of them if 
caught reading a book. They are held in bondage, 
generation after generation, deprived of mental im- 
provement, and who can expect them to possess much 
knowledge ? If they are not brought down to a level 
with the brute creation, you slaveholders will never 
be blamed for it. K they av3 baboons, or stand >io 


higher in the scale of intelligence than such animals, 
you and men like you will have to answer for it. 
There's a si n, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, thai 
will not go unpunished forever. There will be a 
reckoning yet — yes, Epps, there's a day coming that 
will burn as an oven. It may be sooner or it may be 
later, but it's a coming as sure as the Lord is just." 

" If you lived up among the Yankees in ]N"ew- 
England," said Epps, " I expect you'd be one of them 
cursed fanatics that know more than the constitution, 
and go about peddling clocks and coaxing niggers 
to run away." 

" If I was in ITew-England," returned Bass, " I 
would be just what I am here. I would say that 
Slavery was an iniquity, and ought to be abolished. 
I would say there was no reason nor justice in the 
law, or the constitution that allows one man to hold 
another man in bondage. It would be hard for you 
to lose your property, to be sure, but it wouldn't be 
half as hard as it would be to lose your liberty. You 
have no more right to your freedom, in exact justice, 
than Uncle Abram yonder. Talk about black skin, 
and black blood ; why, how many slaves are there on 
this bayou as white as either of us ? And what dif- 
ference is there in the color of the soul ? Pshaw ! the 
whole system is as absurd as it is cruel. You may 
own niggers and behanged, but I wouldn't own one 
for the be&t plantation in Louisiana." 

*' You like to hear yourself talk, Bass, better than 
ai y man I know of. You would aro-iie that black was 


white, or white black, if any body would contradict 
yon. l^otliing suits you in this world, and I don't 
believe you will be satisfied with the next, if you 
should have your choice in them." 

Conversations substantially like the foregoing were 
not unusual between the two after this ; Epps drawing 
him out more for the purpose of creating a laugh at 
his expense, than with a view of fairly discussing the 
merits of the question. He looked upon Bass, as a 
man ready to say anything merely for the pleasure of 
hearing his own voice ; as somewhat self-conceited, 
perhaps, contending against his faith and judgment, 
in order, simply, to exhibit his dexterity in argumen- 

He remained at Epps' through the summer, visiting 
Marksville generally once a fortnight. Tlie more I 
saw of him, the more I became convinced he was a 
man in whom I could confide. ^Nevertheless, my 
previous ill-fortune had taught me to be extremely 
cautious. It was not my place to speak to a white 
man except when spoken to, but I omitted no oppor- 
tunity of throwing myself in his way, and endeavored 
constantly in every possible manner to attract his 
attention. In the early part of August he and my- 
self were at work alone in the house, the other car- 
penters having left, and Epps being absent in the 
field. Now was the time, if ever, to broach the sub- 
ject, and I resolved to do it, and submit to whatever 
consequences might ensue. We were busily at work 
in the afternoon, when I stopped suddenly and said — • 


" Master Bass, I want to ask you what part of the 
country you came from ?" 

" Why, Piatt, what put that into your head ? " he 
answered. " You wouldn't know if I should tell you." 
After a moment or two he added — "I was bom in 
Canada ; now guess where that is." 

" Oh, I know where Canada is," said I, " I have 
been there myself." 

" Yes, I expect you are well acquainted all through 
that country," he remarked, laughing incredulously. 

" As sure as I live, Master Bass," I replied, " I have 
been there. I have been in Montreal and Kingston, 
and Queenston, and a great many places in Canada, 
and I have been in York State, too — in Buffalo, and 
Rochester, and Albany, and can tell you the names 
of the villages on the Erie canal and the Champlain 

Bass turned round and gazed at me a long time 
without uttering a syllable. 

"How came you here?" he inquired, at length, 
"Master Bass," I answered, "if justice had been 
done, I never would have been here." 

" Well, how's this ? " said he. " Who are you ? You 
have been in Canada sure enough ; I know all the 
places you mention. How did you happen to get 
here ? Come, tell me all about it." 

" I have no friends here," was my reply, " that I 
can put confidence in. I am afraid to tell you, 
though I don't believe you would tell Master Epps if 
I should." 


He assured me earnestly lie would keep every word 
I might speak to him a profound secret, and his curi 
osity was evidently strongly excited. It was a long 
story, I informed him, and would take some time to 
relate it. Master Epps would be back soon, but if he 
would see me that night after all were asleep, I would 
repeat it to him. He consented readily to the ar- 
rangement, and directed me to come into the building 
where we were then at work, and I would find him 
there. About midnight, when all was still and quiet, 
I crept cautiously from my cabin, and silently enter- 
ing the unfinished building, found him awaiting me. 

After further assurances on his part that I should 
not be betrayed, I began a relation of the history of 
my life and misfortunes. He was deeply interested, 
asking numerous questions in reference to localities 
and events. Having ended my story I besought him 
to write to some of my friends at the I^orth, acquaint- 
ing them with my situation, and begging them to for- 
ward free papers, or take such steps as they might 
consider proper to secure my release. He promised 
to do so, but dwelt upon the danger of such an act in 
case of detection, and now impressed upon me the 
great necessity of strict silence and secresy. Before 
we parted our plan of operation was arranged. 

We agreed to meet the next night at a specified 
place among the high weeds on the bank of the bayou, 
some distance from master's dwelling. There he was 
to write down on paper the names and address of sev 
eral persons, old friends in the I^orth, to whom he 


would direct letters during his next visit to Marks- 
ville. It was not deemed prudent to meet in the new 
house, inasmuch as the light it would be necessary to 
use might possibly be discovered. In the course of 
the day I managed to obtain a few matches and a 
piece of candle, unperceived, from the kitchen, during 
a temporary absence of Aunt Phebe. Bass had pen- 
cil and paper in his tool chest. 

At the appointed hour we met on the bayou bank, 
and creeping among the high weeds, I lighted the 
candle, while he drew forth pencil and paper and pre- 
pared for business. I gave him the names of Wil- 
liam Perry, Cephas Parker and Judge Marvin, all of 
Saratoga Springs, Saratoga county, New- York. I had 
been employed by the latter in the United States 
Hotel, and had transacted business with the former to 
a considerable extent, and trusted that at least one of 
them would be still living at that place. He care- 
fully wrote the names, and then remarked, thought- 

" It is so many years since you left Saratoga, all 
these men may be dead, or may have removed. You 
say you obtained papers at the custom house in Kew- 
York. Probably there is a record of them there, and 
I think it would be well to write and ascertain." 

I agreed with him, and again repeated the circum 
stances related heretofore, connected with my visit t' 
the custom house with Brown and Hamilton. We 
lingered on the bank of the bayou an hour or more, 
conversing upon the subject which now engrossed our 


thoughts. I could no longer doubt his fidelity, and 
freely spoke to him of the many sorrows I had borne 
in silence, and so long. I spoke of my wife and chil- 
dren, mentioning their names and ages, and dwelling 
upon the unspeakable happiness it would be to clasp 
them to my heart once more before I died. I caught 
him by the hand, and with tears and passionate en- 
treaties implored him to befriend me — to restore me 
to my kindred and to liberty — promising I would weary 
Heaven the remainder of my life with prayers that it 
would bless and prosper him. In the enjoyment of 
freedom — surrounded by the associations of youth, 
and restored to the bosom of my family — that prom 
ise is not yet forgotten, noi shall it ever be so long as 
I have strength to raise my imploring eyes on high. 

"Oh, blessings on his kindly voice and on his silver hair, 
And blessings on his whole life long, until he meet me there." 

He overwhelmed me with assurances of friendship 
and faithfulness, saying he had never before taken so 
deep an interest in the fate of any one. He spoke of 
himself in a somewhat mournful tone, as a lonely 
man, a wanderer about the world — that he was 
growing old, and must soon reach the end of his 
earthly journey, and lie down to his final rest with- 
out kith or kin to mourn for him, or to remember 
him — that his life was of little value to himself, and 
henceforth should be devoted to the accomplishment 
of my liberty, and to an unceasing warfare against 
the accursed shame of Slavery. 


After this time we seldom spoke to, or recognized 
each other. lie was, moreover, less free in his con- 
versation with Epps on the subject of Slavery. Tlie 
remotest suspicion that there was any unusual intima- 
cy — any secret understanding between us — never 
once entered the mind of Epps, or any other person, 
white or black, on the plantation. 

I am often asked, with an air of incredulity, how I 
succeeded so many years in keeping from my daily 
md constant companions the knowledge of my true 
aame and history. The terrible lesson Burch taught 
me, impressed indelibly upon my mind the danger 
and uselessness of asserting I was a freeman. There 
was no possibility of any slave being able to assist 
me, while, on the other hand, there was a possibility 
of his exposing me. When it is recollected the whole 
current of my thoughts, for twelve years, turned to the 
contemplation of escape, it w^ill not be wondered at, 
that I was always cautious and on my guard. It 
would have been an act of folly to have proclaimed 
my right to freedom ; it would only have subjected 
me to severer scrutiny — probably have consigned me 
to some more distant and inaccessible region than 
even Bayou Boeuf Edwin Epps was a person utter- 
ly regardless of a black man's rights or wrongs — ut- 
terly destitute of any natural sense of justice, as 1 
well knew. It was important, therefore, not only as 
regarded my hope of deliverance, but also as regard- 
ed the few personal priviliges I was permitted to en- 
joy, to koej) from liiiii the history of my life. 


Tlie Saturday niglit subsequent to our interview at 
tlie water's edge, Bass went home to Marksville. The 
next day, being Sunday, he employed himself in his 
own room writing letters. One he directed to the 
Collector of Customs at New- York, another to Jud^e 
Marvin, and another to Messrs. Parker and Perry joint- 
ly. The latter was the one which led to my recovery. 
He subscribed my true name, but in the postscript i n- 
timated I was not the writer. The letter itself shows 
that he considered himself engaged in a dangerous 
undertakmg — no less than running "the risk of his 
life, if detected." I did not see the letter before it was 
mailed, but have since obtained a copy, which is here 
mserted : 

"Bayou Boeuf, August 15, 1852. 
** Mr. William Perry or Mr. Cephas Parker : 

" Gentlemen — It having been a long time since I have seen 
or heard fix)m you, and not knowing that you are living, it is 
with mcertainty that I write to you, but the necessity of the 
case must be my excuse. 

" Havuig been born free, just across the river from you, I am 
certain you must know me, and I am here now a slave. I wish 
you to obtain free papers for me, and forward them to me at 
Marksville, Louisiana, Parish of Avoyelles, and oblige 


" The way I came to be a slave, I was taken sick in Washing- 
ton City, and was msensible for some time. When I recover- 
ed my reason, I ^^^as robbed of my free-papers, and in irons on 
my way to this State, and have never been able to get any oiu; 
to write for me until now ; and he that is wi-iting f(»r me rum 
the risk of his life if detected." 


The allusion to myself in tlie work recently issned, 
entitled " A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin," contains the 
first part of this letter, omitting the postscript. Nei- 
ther are the full names of the gentlemen to whom it 
is directed correctly stated, there being a slight dis- 
crepancy, probably a typographical error. To the 
postscript more than to the body of the communica- 
tion am I indebted for my liberation, as will present- 
ly be seen. 

When Bass returned from Marksville he informed 
me of what he had done. We continued our mid- 
night consultations, never speaking to each other 
through the day, excepting as it was necessary about 
the work. As nearly as he was able to ascertain, it 
would require two weeks for the letter to reach Sara- 
toga in due course of mail, and the same length of 
time for an answer to return. Within six weeks, at 
the farthest, we concluded, an answer would arrive, if 
it arrived at all. A great many suggestions were 
now made, and a great deal of conversation took place 
between us, as to the most safe and proper course to 
pursue on receipt of the free papers. They would 
stand between him and harm, in case we were over- 
taken and arrested leaving the country altogether. It 
would be no infringement of law, however much it 
might provoke individual hostility, to assist a freeman 
to regain liis freedom. 

At the end of four weeks he was again at Marks- 
ville, l)ut no answer had arrived. I was sorely disap- 
])oii)t(Ml, but still reconciled myself with the rejlection 


tliat sufficient length of time bad not yet elapsed — 
that there might have been delays — and that I could 
not reasonably expect one so soon. Six, seven, eight, 
and ten weeks passed by, however, and nothing came. 
I was in a fever of suspense whenever Bass visited 
Marksville, and could scarcely close my eyes until his 
return. Finally my master's house was finished, and 
the time came when Bass must leave me. The night 
before his departure I was wholly given np to despair. 
I had clung to him as a drowning man clings to the 
floating spar, knowing if it slips from his grasp he 
must forever sink beneath the waves. The all-glorious 
hope, upon which I had laid such eager hold, was 
crumbling to ashes in my hands. I felt as if sinking 
down, down, amidst the bitter waters of Slavery, from 
the unfathomable depths of which I should never 
rise again. 

The generous heart of my friend and benefactor was 
touched with pity at the sight of my distress. He en- 
deavored to cheer me np, promising to return the day 
before Christmas, and if no intelligence was received 
in the meantime, some further step would be under- 
taken to effect our design. He exhorted me to keep 
np my spirits — to rely upon his continued efforts in 
my behalf, assuring me, in most earnest and impres- 
sive language, that my liberation should, from thence- 
forth, be the chief object of his thoughts. 

In his absence the time passed slowly indeed. I 
looked forward to Christmas with intense anxiety and 
iirpatience. I hi^d about given up the expectation of 


receiving any answer to tlie letters. They miglit Lave 
miscarried, or miglit have been misdirected. Perhaps 
tliose at Saratoga, to whom they had been addressed, 
were all dead ; perhaps, engaged in their pursuits, 
tliey did not consider the fate of an obscure, unhappy 
black man of sufficient importance to be noticed. My 
whole reliance was in Bass. The faith I had in him 
was continually re-assuring me, and enabled me to 
stand up against the tide of disappointment that had 
overwhelmed me. 

So wholly was I absorbed in reflecting upon my sit- 
uation and prospects, that the hands with whom I la- 
bored in the field often observed it. Patsey would 
ask me if I was sick, and Uncle Abram, and Bob, and 
AViley frequently expressed a curiosity to know what 
I could be thinking about so steadily. But I evaded 
their inquiries with some light remark, and kept my 
thoughts locked closely in my breast. 










Faithful to his word, tlie day before Cliristmas, just 
at niglit-fall, Bass, came riding into tlie yard. 

" How are you," said Epps, shaking him by the 
hand, " glad to see you." 

He would not have been venj glad had he known 
the object of his errand. 

" Quite well, quite well," answered Bass. " Had 
some business out on the bayou, and concluded to call 
and see you, and stay over night." 

Epps ordered one of the slaves to take charge of 
his horse, and with much talk and laughter they pass- 
ed into the house together ; not, however, until Bass 
Vad looked at me significantly, as much as to say, 


" Keep dark, we understand each otlier." It was ten 
o'clock at niglit l)ef()re the labors of the day were per- 
formed, when I entered the cabin. At that time Un- 
cle Abram and Bob occupied it with me. I laid 
down upon my board and feigned I was asleep. 
When my companions had fallen into a profound 
sluml)er, I moved stealthily out of the door, and watch- 
ed, and listened attentively for some sign or sound 
from Bass. There I stood until long after midnight, 
but nothing could be seen or heard. As I suspected, 
he dared not leave the house, through fear of exciting 
the suspicion of some of the family. I judged, correct- 
y, he would rise earlier than was his custom, and 
take the opportunity of seeing me before Epps w^as 
up. Accordingly I aroused Uncle Al)ram an hour 
sooner than usual, and sent him into the house to build 
a fire, which, at that season of the year, is a part of 
Uncle Abram's duties. 

I also gave Bob a violent shake, and asked him if 
he intended to sleep till noon, saying master would be 
up before the mules were fed. He knew right well 
the consequence that would follow such an event, and, 
jumping to his feet, was at the horse-pasture in ? 

Presently, when both were gone, Bass slipped into 
Hie cabin. 

" 'No letter yet, Piatt," said he. Tlie announce- 
ment fell upon my heart like lead. 

" Oh, do write again, Master Bass," I cried ; *^ I 
will give you the n:imes of a great many I know. 

THE mt<:eting m the cabin. 2S1 

Surely tliey are not all dead. Surely some one will 
pity me." 

" 'No use," Bass replied, "no use. I have made up 
my mind to that. I fear the Marksville post-master 
will mistrust something, I have inquired so often at 
his office. Too uncertain — too dangerous." 

" Then it is all over," I exclaimed. " Oh, my God, 
how can I end my days here !" 

" You're not going to end them here," he said, " un 
less you die very soon. I've thought this matter all 
over, and have come to a determination. There are 
more ways than one to manage this business, and a 
better and surer way than writing letters. I have a 
job or two on hand which can be completed by March 
or April. By that time I shall have a considerable 
sum of money, and then, Piatt, I am going to Sarato 
ga myself." 

I could scarcely credit my own senses as the words 
fell from his lips. But he assured me, in a manner 
that left no doubt of the sincerity of his intention, that 
if his life was spared until spring, he should certainly 
undertake the journey. 

" I have lived in this region long enough," he con- 
tinued ; " I may as well be in one place as another. 
For a long time I have been thinking of going back 
once more to the place where I was bom. I'm tired 
of Slavery as well as you. If I can succeed in getting 
you away from here, it will be a good act that I shall 
like to think of all my life. And I shall succeed, 


Piatt ; I'm hound to do it. ISTow let me tell you what 
I want. Epps will be up soon, and it won't do to be 
caught here. Think of a great many men at Sarato- 
ga and Sandy Hill, and in that neighborhood, who 
once knew you. I shall. make excuse to come hero 
again in the course of the w^inter, when I will write 
down their names. I will then know who to call on 
when I go north. Think of all you can. Cheer up ! 
Don't be discouraged. I'm with you, life or death. 
Good-bye. God bless you," and saying this he left 
the cabin quickly, and entered the great house. 

It was Christmas morning — the happiest day in the 
whole year for the slave. That morning he need not 
hurry to the field, with his gourd and cotton-bag. 
Happiness sparkled in the eyes and overspread the 
countenances of all. Tlie time of feasting and dancing 
had come. Tlie cane and cotton fields were deserted. 
That day the clean dress was to be donned — the red 
ribbon displayed; there were to be re-unions, and 
joy and laughter, and hurrying to and fro. It was 
to be a day of liberty among the children of Slavery. 
Wherefore they were happy, and rejoiced. 

After breakfast Epps and Bass sauntered about the 
yard, conversing upon the price of cotton, and va- 
rious other topics. 

"Where do your niggers hold Christmas ?" Bass in- 

'' riatt is going to Tanners to-day. His fiddle is 
)• great demand. They want him at Marshall's Mon- 


day, and Miss Mary McCoy, on the old Norwood 
plantation, writes me a note tliat slie wants liim to 
play for lier niggers Tuesday." 

" He is rather a smart boy, ain't he ?" said Bass. 
" Come here, Piatt," he added, looking at me as 1 
walked up to them, as if he had never thought before 
to take any special notice of me. 

" Yes," replied Epps, taking hold of my arm and 
feeling it, '' there isn't a bad joint in him. There ain't 
a boy on the bayou worth more than he is — perfect- 
ly sound, and no bad tricks. D — n him, he isn't like 
other niggers ; doesn't look like 'em — don't act like 
'em. I was offered seventeen hundred dollars for him 
last week." 

" And didn't take it ?" Bass inquired, with an air 
of surprise. 

" Take it — no ; devilish clear of it. Wliy, he's a 
reg'lar genius; can make a plough beam, wagon 
tongue — anything, as well as you can. Marshall 
wanted to put up one of his niggers agin him and raf- 
fle for them, but 1 told him I would see the devil have 
him first." 

" I don't see anything remarkable about him," Bass 

" Why, just feel of him, now," Epps rejoined. 
"You don't see a boy very often put together any 
closer than he is. He's a thin-skin'd cuss, and won't 
bear as much whipping as some; but he's got tho 
muscle in him, and no mistake. 

Bass felt of me, turned me round, and made a 


thorongli examination, Epps all the while dwelling on 
my good points. But his visitor seemed to take but 
little interest finally in the subject, and consequently 
it was dropped. Bass soon departed, giving me an- 
other sly look of recognition and significance, as he 
trotted out of the yard. 

When he was gone I obtained a pass, and started 
for Tanner's — not Peter Tanner's, of whom mention 
has previously been made, but a relative of his. I 
played during the day and most of the night, spend- 
ing the next day, Sunday, in my cabin. Monday I 
crossed the bayou to Douglas Marshall's, all Epps' 
slaves accompanying me, and on Tuesday went to the 
old IN'orwood place, which is the third plantation 
above Marshall's, on the same side of the water. 

Tliis estate is now owned by Miss Mary McCoy, a 
lovely girl, some twenty years of age. She is the beau- 
ty and the glory of Bayou Boeuf. She owns about a 
hundred working hands, besides a great many house 
servants, yard boys, and young children. Her broth- 
er-in-law, who resides on the adjoining estate, is her 
general agent. She is beloved by all her slaves, and 
good reason indeed have they to be thankful that they 
have fallen into such gentle hands. E'owhere on the 
bayou are there such feasts, such merrymaking, as at 
yoimg Madam McCoy's. Thither, more than to any 
other place, do the old and the young for miles around 
love to repair in the time of the Christmas holidays ; 
for nowhere else can they find such delicious repasts ; 
nowhere else can they hear a voice speaking to theno 


80 pleasantly. Ko one is so well beloved — no one 
fills so large a space in the hearts of a thousand slaves, 
as young Madam McCoy, the orphan mistress, of the 
old jN'orwood estate. 

On my arrival at her place, I found two or three 
hundred had assembled. Tlie table was prepared in 
a long building, which she had erected expressly for 
her slaves to dance in. It was covered with every 
variety of food the country afforded, and was pro- 
nounced by general acclamation to be the rarest of 
dinners. Eoast turkey, pig, chicken, duck, and all 
kinds of meat, baked, boiled, and broiled, formed a 
line the whole length of the extended table, while the 
vacant spaces were filled with tarts, jellies, and frost- 
ed cake, and pastry of many kinds. The young mis- 
tress walked around the table, smiling and saying a 
kind word to each one, and seemed to enjoy the scene 

When the dinner was over the tables were remov- 
ed to make room for the dancers. I tuned my violin 
and struck up a lively air ; while some joined in a 
nimble reel, others patted and sang their simple but 
melodious songs, filling the great room with music 
mingled with the sound of human voices and the clat- 
ter of many feet. 

In the evening the mistress returned, and stood in 
the door a long time, looking at us. She was magnifi- 
cently arrayed. Her dark hair and eyes contrasted 
strongly with her clear and delicate complexion. 
Her form was slender but commanding, and her 


movement was a combination of nnafiected digLlij 
and grace. As she stood there, clad in her rich ap- 
parel, her face animated with pleasure, I thought I had 
never looked upon a human being half so beautiful. 
1 dwell with delight upon the description of this fair 
and gentle lady, not only because she inspired me 
with emotions of gratitude and admiration, but be 
cause I would have the reader understand that alJ 
slave-owners on Bajou Boeuf are not like Epps, oi 
Tibeats, or Jim Burns. Occasionally can be found, 
rarely it may be, indeed, a good man like William 
Ford, or an angel of kindness like young Mistress 

Tuesday concluded the three holidays Epps yearly 
allowed us. On my way home, Wednesday morning, 
while passing the plantation of William Pierce, that 
gentleman hailed me, saying he had received a line 
from Epps, brought down by William Yarnell, per- 
mitting him to detain me for the purpose of playing 
for his slaves that night. It was the last time I was 
destined to witness a slave dance on the shores of Ba- 
you Boeuf The party at Pierce's continued their jol- 
lification until broad daylight, when I returned to my 
master's house, somewhat w^earied with the loss of 
rest, but rejoicing in the possession of numerous bits 
and picayunes, which the whites, who were pleased 
w^itli my musical performances, had contributed. 

On Saturday morning, for the first time in years, 1 
ovei-slept myself I was frightened on coming out of 
tlic cabin to tind the slaves were already in the field 

THE LAST WHiprma. 287 

TFiej had preceded me some fifteen minutes. Leav- 
ing mj dinner and water-gourd, I hurried after them 
as fast as I could move. It was not yet sunrise, but 
Epps was on the piazza as I left the hut, and cried out 
to me that it was a pretty time of day to be getting 
up. By extra exertion my row was up w^hen he came 
out after breakfast. This, however, was no excuse for 
the offence of oversleeping. Bidding me strip and lie 
down, he gave me ten or fifteen lashes, at the conclu- 
sion of which he inquired if I thought, after that, I 
could get up sometime in the morning. I expressed 
myself quite positively that I coidd^ and, with back 
stinging with pain, went about my work. 

The following day, Sunday, my thoughts were upon 
Bass, and the probabilities and hopes which hung 
upon his action and determination. I considered the 
uncertainty of life ; that if it should be the will of 
God that he should die, my prospect of deliverance, and 
all expectation of happiness in this world, would be 
wdiolly ended and destroyed. My sore back, perhaps, 
did not have a tendency to render me unusually cheer- 
ful. I felt down-hearted and unhappy all day long, 
and when I laid down upon the hard board at night, 
my heart was oppressed with such a load of grief, it 
seemed that it must break. 

Monday morning, the third of January, 1853, we 
were in the field betimes. It was a raw, cold morn- 
ing, such as is unusual in that region. I was in ad- 
vance. Uncle Abram next to me, behind him Bob, 
Patsey and Wiley, witli our cottou-bags about our 


necks. Epps happened (a rare thing, indeed,) to come 
out that morning without his whip. He swore, in a 
manner that would shame a pirate, that we were do- 
ing nothing. Bob ventured to say that his fingers 
were so numb with cold he couldn't pick fast. Epps 
cursed himself for not having brought his rawhide, 
and declared that when he came out again he would 
warm us well ; yes, he would make us all hotter than 
that fiery realm in which I am sometimes compelled 
to believe he will himself eventually reside. 

With these fervent expressions, he left us. When 
out of hearing, we commenced talking to each other, 
saying how hard it was to be compelled to keep up 
our tasks with numb fingers ; how unreasonable mas- 
ter was, and speaking of him generally in no flatter- 
ing terms. Our conversation was interrupted by a 
carriage passing rapidly towards the house. Looking 
up, we saw two men approaching us through the cot- 

Having now brought down this narrative to the last 
hour I was to spend on Bayou Boeuf ^ — having got- 
ten through my last cotton picking, and about to bid 
Master Epps farewell — I must beg the reader to go 
back with me to the month of August ; to follow Bass' 
letter on its long journey to Saratoga; to learn the 
efiect it produced — and that, while I was repining 
and despairing in the slave hut of Edwin Epps, 
through the friendship of Bass and the goodness of 
Providence, all things were working together for my 











I AM indebted to Mr. Henrj B. IN'orthup and oth- 
ers for many of tlie particulars contained in this 

The letter written bj Bass, directed to Parker and 
Perry, and which was deposited in the post-office in 
Marksville on the 15th day of August, 1852, arrived 
at Saratoga in the early part of September. Some 
time previous to this, Anne had removed to Glens 
Falls, WaiTcn county, where she had charge of the 
kitchen in Carpenter's Hotel. She kept house, how- 
ever, lodging with our children, and was only absent 
from them during such time as the discharge of her 
duties in the hotel required. 

M 19 


Messrs. Parker and Perry, on receipt of the letter, 
forwarded it immediately to Anne. On reading it 
the children were all excitement, and without delay 
hastened to the neighboring village of Sandy Hill, 
to consult Henry B. JSTorthup, and obtain his advice 
and assistance in the matter. 

Upon examination, that gentleman found among 
the statutes of the State an act providing for the re- 
covery of free citizens from slavery. It was passed 
May 14, 1840, and is entitled "An act more effectu- 
ally to protect the free citizens of this State from 
being kidnapped or reduced to slavery." It provides 
that it shall be the duty of the Governor, upon the re- 
ceipt of satisfactory information that any free citizen or 
inhabitant of this State, is wrongfully held in another 
State or Territory of the United States, upon the al- 
legation or pretence that such person is a slave, or 
by color of any usage or rule of law is deemed or 
taken to be a slave, to take such measures to procure 
the restoration of such person to liberty, as he shall 
deem necessary. And to that end, he is authorized 
to appoint and employ an agent, and directed to fur- 
nish him with such credentials and instructions as will 
be likely to accomplish the object of his appointment. 
It requires the agent so appointed to proceed to col- 
lect the proper proof to establish the right of such 
person to his freedom ; to perform such journeys, take 
such measures, institute such legal proceedings, &c., 
as may be necessary to return such person to this 
State, and charges all expenses incurred in carrying 


the act into effect, upon moneys not otherwise ap- 
propriated in the treasury.* 

It was necessary to establish two facts to the satis- 
faction of the Governor : First, that I was a free citi- 
zen of E'ew-York ; and secondly, that I was wrong- 
fully held in bondage. As to the first point, there 
was no difficulty, all the older inhabitants in the vi- 
cinity being ready to testify to it. The second point 
rested entirely upon the letter to Parker and Perry, 
written in an unknown hand, and upon the letter pen- 
ned on board the brig Orleans, which, unfortunately, 
had been mislaid or lost. 

A memorial was prepared, directed to his excellen 
cy. Governor Hunt, setting forth her marriage, my 
departure to Washington city ; the receipt of the let- 
ters ; that I was a free citizen, and such other facts as 
were deemed important, and was signed and verified 
by Anne. Accompanying this memorial were sever- 
al affidavits of prominent citizens of Sandy Hill and 
Fort Edward, corroborating fully the statements it 
contained, and also a request of several well known 
gentlemen to the Governor, that Henry B. Korthup 
be appointed agent under the legislative act. 

On reading the memorial and affidavits, his excel- 
lency took a lively interest in the matter, and on the 
23d day of November, 1852, under the seal of the 
State, " constituted, appointed and employed Henry 
B. ISTorthup, Esq., an agent, with full power to effect" 
my restoration, and to take such measures as would 

* See Appendix A. 


be most likely to accomplisli it, and instructing him 
to proceed to Louisiana with all convenient dispatch.* 

The pressing nature of Mr. l^orthup's professional 
and political engagements delayed his departure un- 
til December. On the fourteenth day of that month 
he left Sandy Hill, and proceeded to Washington. 
The Hon. Pierre Soule, Senator in Congress from Lou- 
isiana, Hon. Mr. Conrad, Secretary of War, and 
Judge ^N'elson, of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, upon hearing a statement of the facts, and ex- 
amining his commission, and certified copies of the 
memorial and affidavits, furnished him with open let- 
ters to gentlemen in Louisiana, strongly urging their 
assistance in accomplishing the object of his ap- 

Senator Soule especially interested himself m the 
matter, insisting, in forcible language, that it was the 
duty and interest of every planter in his State to aid 
in restoring me to freedom, and trusted the sentiments 
of honor and justice in the bosom of every citizen of 
the commonwealth would enlist him at once in my 
behalf. Having obtained these valuable letters, Mr. 
Northup returned to Baltimore, and proceeded from 
thence to Pittsburgh. It was his original intention, 
under advice of friends at Washington, to go directly 
to New Orleans, and consult the authorities of that 
city. Providentially, however, on arriving at the 
mouth of Eed Piver, he changed his mind. Had he 
continued on, he would not have met with Bass, in 

• See Appendix B. 


whicli case the search for me would probably have 
been fruitless. 

Taking passage on the first steamer that arrived, 
he pursued his journey up Eed Kiver, a sluggish, 
winding stream, flowing through a vast region of 
primitive forests and impenetrable swamps, almost 
wholly destitute of inhabitants. About nine o'clock in 
the forenoon, January 1st, 1853, he left the steamboat 
at Marksville, and proceeded directly to Marksville 
Court House, a small village four miles in the interior. 

.From the fact that the letter to Messrs. Parker and 
Perry was post-marked at Marksville, it was supposed 
by him that I was in that place or its immediate vi- 
cinity. On reaching this town, he at once laid his 
business before the Hon. John P. Waddill, a legal 
gentleman of distinction, and a man of fine genius 
and most noble impulses. After reading the letters 
and documents presented him, and listening to a rep- 
resentation of the circumstances under which I had 
been carried away into captivity, Mr. Waddill at 
once proffered his services, and entered into the af- 
fair with great zeal and earnestness. He, in common 
with others of like elevated character, looked upon 
the kidnapper with abhorrence. The title of his fel- 
low parishioners and clients to the property which 
constituted the larger proportion of their wealth, not 
only depended upon the good faith in which slave 
sales were transacted, but he was a man in whoso 
honorable heart emotions of indignation were aroused 
by such an instance of injustice 


Marksville, althougli occupying a prominent posi- 
tion, and standing out in impressive italics on the 
map of Louisiana, is, in fact, but a small and insig- 
nificant hamlet. Aside from the tavern, kept by a 
jolly and generous boniface, the court house, inhabi- 
ted by lawless cows and swine in the seasons of va- 
cation, and a high gallows, with its dissevered rope 
dangling in the air, there is little to attract the at- 
tention of the stranger. 

Solomon N'orthup was a name Mr. Waddill had 
never heard, but he was confident that if there was 
a slave bearing that appellation in Marksville or vi- 
cinity, his black boy Tom would know him. Tom 
was accordingly called, but in all his extensive cir- 
cle of acquaintances there was no such personage. 

The letter to Parker and Perry was dated at Bayou 
Boeuf. At this place, therefore, the conclusion was, 
I must be sought. But here a difficulty suggested 
itself, of a very grave character indeed. Bayou Boeuf, 
at its nearest point, was twenty-three miles distant, 
' and was the name applied to the section of country 
extending between fifty and a hundred miles, on 
both sides of that stream. Thousands and thousands 
of slaves resided upon its shores, the remarkable 
richness and fertility of the soil having attracted 
thither a great number of planters. The information 
in the letter was so vague and indefinite as to render 
it difficult to conclude upon any specific course of 
proceeding. It was finally determined, however, as 
the only plan that presented any prospect of success, 


that NortliTip and tlie brother of Waddill, a student 
in the office of the latter, should repair to the Bayou, 
and traveling up one side and down the other its 
whole length, inquire at each plantation for me. Mr. 
Waddill tendered the use of his carriage, and it was 
definitely arranged that they should start upon the 
excursion early Monday morning. 

It will be seen at once that this course, in all prob- 
ability, would have resulted unsuccessfully. It would 
have been impossible for them to have gone into the 
fields and examine all the gangs at work. They 
were not aware that I was known only as Piatt ; and 
had they inquired of Epps himself, he would ha\8 
stated 'truly that he knew nothing of Solom,on 

The arrangement being adopted, however, there 
was nothing further to be done until Sunday had 
elapsed. Tlie conversation between Messrs. IS'orthup 
and Waddill, in the course of the afternoon, turned 
upon l^ew-York politics. 

"I can scarcely^ comprehend the nice distinc- 
tions and shades of political parties in your State," 
observed Mr. Waddill. " I read of soft-shells and 
hard-shells, hunkers and barnburners, woolly-heads 
and silver-grays, and am unable to understand the 
precise diflTerence between them. Pray, what is it ?" 

Mr. I^orthup, re-filling his pipe, entered into quite 
an elaborate narrative of the origin of the various 
sections of parties, and concluded by saying there was 
another party in I^ew-York, known as free-soilers or 


abolitionists. " You have seen none of those in this 
part of the country, I presume ?" Mr. JS'orthup re- 

" JN'ever, but one," answered Waddill, laughingly. 
*' We have one here in Marksville, an eccentric crea- 
ture, who preaches abolitionism as vehemently as any 
fanatic at the ITorth. He is a generous, inoffensive 
man, but always maintaining the wrong side of an 
argument. It affords us a deal of amusement. He 
is an excellent mechanic, and almost indispensable in 
this community. He is a carpenter. His name is 

Some further good-natured conversation was had at 
the expense of Bass' peculiarities, when Waddill all 
at once fell into a reflective mood, and asked for the 
mysterious letter again. 

"Let me see — 1-e-t m-e s-e-e !" he repeated, 
thoughtfully to himself, running his eyes over the let- 
ter once more. " ' Bayou Boeuf, August 16.' August 
15 — post-marked here. ' He that is writing for me — ' 
Where did Bass work last summer?" he inquired, 
turning suddenly to his brother. His brother was 
unable to inform him, but rising, left the office, and 
soon returned with the intelligence that " Bass work- 
ed last summer somewhere on Bayou Boeuf" 

" He is the man," 'bringing down his hand emphat- 
ically on the table,'" who can tell us all about Sol- 
omon Northup," exclaimed AVaddill. 

Bass was immediately searched for, but could not 
be found. After some inquiry, it was ascertained he 


was at the landing on Ked Eiver. Procuring a con- 
veyance, young "Waddill and :Nrortliup were not long 
in traversing the few miles to the latter place. On 
their arrival, Bass was found, just on the point of leav- 
ing, to be absent a fortnight or more. After an in- 
troduction, Northup begged the privilege of speaking 
to him privately a moment. Tliey walked together 
towards the river, when the following conversation 
ensued : 

" Mr. Bass," said Northup, " allow me to ask you 
if you were on Bayou Boeuf last August ? " 

" Yes, sir, I was there in August," was the reply. 

" Did you write a letter for a colored man at that 
place to some gentleman in Saratoga Springs ? " 

" Excuse me, sir, if I say that is none of your busi- 
ness," answered Bass, stopping and looking his inter- 
rogator searchingly in the face. 

" Perhaps I am rather hasty, Mr. Bass ; I beg your 
pardon ; but I have come from the State of New- York 
to accomplish the purpose the writer of a letter dated 
the 15th of August, post-marked at Marksville, had 
in view. Circumstances have led me to think that 
you are perhaps the man who wrote it. I am in 
search of Solomon Korthup. If you know him, I beg 
you to inform me frankly where he is, and I assure 
you the source of any information you may give me 
shall not be divulged, if you desire it not to be." 

A long time Bass looked his new acquaintance 
steadily in the eyes, without opening his b'ps. lie 
seemed to be doubting in his own mind if there was 


not an attempt to practice some deception upon him. 
Finally he said, deliberately — 

" I have done nothing to be ashamed of. I am the 
man who wrote the letter. If you have come to res- 
cue Solomon I^orthup, I am glad to see you." 

" When did you last see him, and where is he ? " 
Korthup inquired. 

" I last saw him Christmas, a week ago to-day. 
He is the slave of Edwin Epps, a planter on Bayou 
Boeuf, near Holmesville. He is not known as Solo- 
mon IS'orthup ; he is called Piatt." 

The secret was out — the mystery was unraveled. 
Tlirough the thick, black cloud, amid whose dark and 
dismal shadows I had walked twelve years, broke the 
star that was to light me back to liberty. All mis- 
trust and hesitation were soon thrown aside, and the 
two men conversed long and freely upon the subject 
uppermost in their thoughts. Bass expressed the 
interest he had taken in my behalf — his intention of 
going north in the Spring, and declaring that he had 
resolved to accomplish my emancipation, if it were in 
his power. He described the commencement and 
progress of his acquaintance with me, and listened 
with eager curiosity to the account given him of my 
family, and the history of my early life. Before sep- 
arating, he drew a map of the bayou on a strip of paper 
with a piece of red chalk, showing the locality of Epps' 
plantation, and the road leading most directly to it. 

Northup and his young companion returned to 
llarksville, where it was determined to commence 


legal proceedings to test the question of my right to 
freedom. I was made plaintiff, Mr. Northup actirr 
as mj guardian, and Edwin Epps defendant. Tlio 
process to be issued was in the nature of replevin, di- 
rected to the sheriff of the parish, commanding him 
to take me into custody, and detain me until the de- 
cision of the court. By the time the papers were duly 
drawn up, it was twelve o'clock at night — too late to 
obtain the necessary signature of the Judge, who resi 
ded some distance out of town. Further business was 
therefore suspended until Monday morning. 

Everything, apparently, was moving along swim- 
mingly, until Sunday afternoon, when Waddill called 
at Northup's room to express his apprehension of dif 
iiculties they had not expected to encounter. Bass 
had become alarmed, a«d had placed his affairs in 
the hands of a person at the landing, communicating 
to him his intention of leaving the State. This per- 
son had betrayed the confidence reposed in him to a 
certain extent, and a rum^or began to float about the 
town, that the stranger at the hotel, who had been 
observed in the company of lawyer Waddill, was after 
one of old Epps' slaves, over on the bayou. Epps 
was known at Marksville, ha^^ing frequent occasion 
to visit that place during the session of the courts, Ji-^d 
the fear entertained by Mr. l^orthup's adviser w a^, 
that intelligence would be conveyed to him in th^-. 
night, giving him an opportunity of secreting me be- 
fore the arrival of the sheriff. 

This apprehension had effect of expediting mat- 


ters considerably. The sheriff, who lived in one direc- 
tion from the -/illage, was requested to hold himself 
in readiness immediately after midnight, while the 
Judge was informed he would be called upon at the 
same time. It is but justice to say, tliat the authovx- 
ties at Marksviile cheerfully rendered all the assist- 
ance in their power. 

As soon after midnight as bail could be perfected, 
and the Judge's signature obtained, a carriage, con- 
taining Mr. Northup and the sheriff, driven by the 
landlord's son, rolled rapidly out of the village of 
Marksviile, on the road towards Bayou Boeuf. 

It was supposed that Epps would contest the issue 
involving my right to liberty, and it therefore sug- 
gested itself to Mr. E'orthup, that the testimony of the 
sheriff, describing my first meeting with the for- 
mer, might perhaps become material on the trial. 
It was accordingly arranged during the ride, that, 
before I had an opportunity of speaking to Mr. 
Northup, the sheriff should propound to me cer- 
tain questions agreed upon, such as the number and 
names of my children, the name of my wife before 
marriage, of places I knew at the Korth, and so forth. 
If my answers corresponded with the statements giv- 
en him, the evidence must necessarily be considered 

At length, shortly after Epps had left the field, with 
the consoling assurance that he would soon return an.l 
warm us, as was stated in the conclusion of the pre- 
ceding chapter, they came in sight of the plantationj 


a- J discovered us at work. Alighting from the car- 
riage, and directing the driver to proceed to tlie great 
house, with instructions not to mention to any one 
the object of their errand until thej met again, Korth- 
np and the sheriff turned from the highway, and came 
towards us across the cotton field. We observed them, 
on looking up at the carriage — one several rods in 
advance of the other. It was a singular and unusual 
thing to see white men approaching us in that man- 
ner, and especially at that early hour in the morning, 
and Uncle Abram and Patsey made some remarks, 
expressive of their astonishment. Walking up to 
Bob, the sheriff inquired : 

" Where's the boy they call Piatt ? " 
" Thar he is, massa," answered Bob, pointing to me, 
and twitching off his hat. 

I wondered to myself what business he could pos- 
sibly have with me, and turning round, gazed at him 
until he had approached within a step. During my 
long residence on the bayou, I had become familiar 
with the face of every planter within many miles ; 
but this man was an utter stranger — certainly I had 
never seen him before. 

" Tour name is Piatt, is it ? " he asked. 
" Yes, master," I responded. 

Pointing towards Korthup, standing a few rods dis- 
tant, he demanded — " Do you know that man ? " 

I looked in the direction indicated, and as my eyes 
rested on his countenance, a world of images thronged 
my brain ; a multitude of well-knowu faces — Anne's, 


and the dear children's, and my old dead father's ; all 
the scenes and associations of childhood and youth ; 
all the friends of other and hai)pier days, appeared 
and disappeared, flitting and floating like dissolving 
shadows before the vision of my imagination, until at 
last the perfect memory of the man recurred to me, 
and throwing up my hands towards Heaven, I ex- 
claimed, in a voice louder than I could utter in a less 
exciting moment — 

" Henry B.JSTorthicp ! Thank God — thank God ! " 

In an instant I comprehended the nature of his busi- 
ness, and felt that the hour of my deliverance was at 
hand. I started towards him, but the sheriff stepped 
Defore me. 

^'Stop a moment," said he ; ^' have you any other 
name than Piatt ? " 

" Solomon Northup is my name, master," I replied. 

" Have you a family ? " he inquired. 

" I had a wife and three childi-en." 

" What were your children's names ? " 

" Ehzabeth, Margaret and Alonzo." 

" And your wife's name before her marriage ? " 

'"^ Anne Hampton." 

*' Who married you ? " 

'^ Timothy Eddy, of Fort Edward." 

'* Where does that gentleman live ? " again pointing 
to Northup, who remained standing in the same place 
where I had first recognized him. 

" He lives in Sandy Hill, Washington county, New 
York," was the reply. 



He was proceeding to ask further questions, but I 
pushed past him, unable longer to restrain myself. 
I seized my old acquaintance by both hands. I could 
not speak. I could not refrain from tears. 

" Sol," he said at length, " I'm glad to see you." 

I essayed to make some answer, but emotion choked 
all utterance, and I was silent. The slaves, utterljp 
confounded, stood gazing upon the scene, their open 
mouths and rolling eyes indicating the utmost wonder 
and astonishment. For ten years I had dwelt among 
them, in the field and in the cabin, borne the same 
hardships, partaken the ^ame fare, mingled my griefs 
with theirs, participated in the same scanty joys ; 
nevertheless, not until this hour, the last I was to re- 
main among them, had the remotest suspicion of my 
-true name, or the slightest knowledge of my real his- 
tory, been entertained by any one of them. 

]^ot a word was spoken for several minutes, during 
which time I clung fast to Northup, looking up into 
his face, fearful I should awake and find it all a 

" Throw down that sack," ISTorthup added, finally, 
" your cotton-picking days are over. Come with us 
to the man you live with." 

I obeyed him, and walking between him and the 
sheriff, we moved towards the great house. It was 
not until we had proceeded some distance that I had 
recovered my voice sufiiciently to ask if my fiimily 
were all living. He informed me he had seen Anne, 
Margaret and Elizabeth but a short time previously ; 


that Alonzo was still living, and all were well. Mj 
mother, however, I could never see again. As I be- 
gan to recover in some measure from the sudden and 
great excitement which so overwhelmed me, I grew 
faint and weak, insomuch it was with difficulty I could 
walk. The shentf took hold of my arm and assisted 
me, or I think I should have fallen. As we entered 
the yard, Epps stood by the gate, conversing with the 
di'iver. That young man, faithful to his instructions, 
was entirely unable to give him the least information 
in answer to his repeated inquiries of what was going 
on. By the time we reached him he was almost as 
much amazed and puzzled as Bcb or Uncle Abram. 
Shaking hands with the sheriff, and receiving an 
introduction to Mr. Northup, he invited them into the 
house, ordering me, at the same time, to bring in 
some wood. It was some time before I succeeded in 
cutting an armful, having, somehow, unaccountably 
lost the power of wielding the axe with any manner 
of precision. When I entered with it at last, the 
table was strewn -with papers, from one of which 
Northup was reading. 1 was probably longer than 
necessity required, in placing the sticks upon the fire, 
being particular as to the exact position of each indi- 
vidual one of them. I heard the words, " the said 
Solomon :N'orthup," and " the deponent further says," 
and "free citizen of Kew- York," repeated frequently, 
and from tliese expressions understood that the secret 
I had so long retained from Master and Mistress Epps, 
was finally developing. T lingered as long as pru- 


dence permitted, and was aboat lea^m^ tli^ room, 
when Epps inquired, 

" Piatt, do you know this gentleman ? " 

" Yes, master," I replied, " 1 have known him as 
long as I can remember." 

" Where does he live ? " 

" He lives in New-York." 

" Did you ever live there ? " 

" Yes, master — born and bred there." 

" You was free, then. Now you d d nigger/' 

he exclaimed, " why did you not tell me that when 1 
bought you ? " 

" Master Epps," I answered, in a somewhat differ- 
ent tone than the one in which I had been accustomed 
to address him — " Master Epps, you did not take the 
trouble to ask me ; besides, I told one of my owners — 
the man that kidnapped me — that I was free, and 
was whipped almost to death for it." 

" It seems there has been a letter written for you by 
somebody. Now, who is it ? " he demanded, authori- 
tatively. I made no reply. 

"I say, who wrote that letter?" he demanded 

" Perhaps I wrote it myself," I said. 

"You haven't been to Marksville post-office and 
back before light, I know." 

He insisted upon my informing him, and I insisted 
I would not. He made many vehement threats against 
the man, whoever he might be, and intimated the 
bloody and savage vengeance he would wreak upon 



Lim, when he found him out. His whole manner 
and language exhibited a feeling of anger towards the 
unknown person who had written for me, and of fret- 
fulness at the idea of losing so much property. Ad- 
dressing Mr. IS'orthup, he swore if he had only had an 
hour's notice of his coming, he would have saved him 
the trouble of taking me back to ISTew-York ; that he 
would have run me into the swamp, or some other 
place out of the way, where all the sheriffs on earth 
couldn't have found me. 

I walked out into the yard, and was entering the 
kitchen door, when something struck me in the back. 
Aunt Phebe, emerging from the back door of the 
great house with a pan of potatoes, had thrown one 
of them with unnecessary violence, thereby giving 
me to understand that she wished to speak to me a 
moment confidentially. Eunning up to me, she whis- 
pered in my ear with great earnestness, 

" Lor a' mity, Piatt ! what d'ye think ? Dem two 
men come after ye. Heard 'em tell massa you free — 
got wife and tree children back thar whar you come 
from. Goin' wid 'em? Fool if ye don't — wish I 
could go," and Aunt Phebe ran on in this manner at 
a rapid rate. 

Presently Mistress Epps made her appearance in 
the kitchen. She said many things to me, and won- 
dered why I had not told her who I was. She ex- 
pressed her regret, complimenting me by saying she 
had rather lose any other servant on the plantation. 
Had Patsey that day stood in my place, the measure 


of my mistress' joy would have overflowed. Now 
there was no one left who could mend a chair or a 
piece of furniture — no one who was of any use about 
the house — no one who could play for her on the vio- 
lin — and Mistress Epps was actually affected to tears. 

Epps had called to Bob to bring up his saddle horse. 
The other slaves, also, overcoming their fear of the 
penalty, had left their work and come to the yard. 
They were standing behind the cabins, out of sight of 
Epps. They beckoned me to come to them, and with 
all the eagerness of curiosity, excited to the highest 
pitch, conversed with and questioned me. If I could 
repeat the exact words they uttered, with the same 
emphasis — if I could paint their several attitudes, and 
the expression of their countenances — it would be 
indeed an interesting picture. In their estimation, I 
had suddenly arisen to an immeasurable height — had 
become a being of immense importance. 

The legal papers having been served, and arrange- 
ments made with Epps to meet them the next day at 
Marksville, Northup and the sheriff entered the 
carriage to return to the latter place. As I was about 
mounting to the driver's seat, the sheriff said I ought 
to bid Mr. and Mrs. Epps good bye. I ran back to 
the piazza where they were standing, and taking off 
my hat, said, 

" Good-bye, missis." 

" Good-bye, Piatt," said Mrs. Epps, kindly. 

" Good-bye, master." 

" Ah ! you d — d nigger," muttered Epps, in a surly, 


malicious tone of voice, " you needn't feel so cussed 
tickled — you ain't gone yet — I'll see about tins busi- 
ness at Marksville to-morrow." 

I was only a " nigger^^ and knew my place, but felt 
as strongly as if I had been a white man, that it 
would have been an inward comfort, had I dared to 
have given him a parting kick. On my way back to 
the carriage, Patsey ran from behind a cabin and 
threw her arms about my neck. 

" Oh ? Piatt," she cried, tears streaming down her 
face, " you're goin' to be free — you're goin' way off 
yonder, where we'll nebber see ye any more. You've 
saved me a good many whippins, Piatt; Pm glad 
you're goin' to be free — but oh ! de Lord, de Lord ! 
what'll become of me ? 

I disengaged myself from her, and entered the 
carriage. The driver cracked his whip and away we 
rolled. I looked back and saw Patsey, with drooping 
head, half reclining on the ground ; Mrs. Epps was on 
the piazza ; Uncle Abram, and Bob, and Wiley, and 
Aunt Phebe stood by the gate, gazing after me. I 
waved my hand, but the carriage turned a bend of 
the bayou, hiding them from my eyes forever. 

We stopped a moment at Carey's sugar house, 
where a great number of slaves were at work, such 
an establishment being a curiosity to a ISTorthern man. 
Epps dashed by us on horseback at full speed — on 
tlie way, as we learned next day, to the "Pine 
Woods," to see AVilliam Ford, who had brought me 
into the country. 


Tuesday, the fourth of January, Epps and his coun- 
sel, the Hon. H. Taylor I^orthup, Waddill, the Judge 
and sheriff of Avoyelles, and myself, met in a room 
in the village of Marksville. Mr. :^orthup stated the 
facts in regard to me, and presented his commission, 
and the affidavits accompanying it. The sheriff de- 
scribed the scene in the cotton field. I was also 
interrogated at great length. Finally, Mr. Taylor 
assured his client that he was satisfied, and that liti- 
gation would not only be expensive, but utterly use- 
less. In accordance with his advice, a paper was 
drawn up and signed by the proper parties, wherein 
Epps acknowledged he was satisfied of my right to 
freedom, and formally surrendered me to the authori- 
ties of New- York. It was also stipulated that it be 
entered of record in the recorder's office of Avoy- 

Mr. ITorthup and myself immediately hastened to 
the landing, and taking passage on the first steamer 
that arrived, were soon floating down Eed Eiver, up 
which, with such desponding thoughts, I had been 
borne twelve years before. 

* See Appendix, C. 







As the steamer glided on its waj towards I^ew- 
Orleans, perhaps I was not liappy — perhajps there 
was no difficulty in restraining myself from dancing 
round the deck — perhaps I did not feel grateful tc 
the man who had come so many hundred miles foi 
me — perhaps I did not light his pipe, and wait and 
watch his word, and run at his slightest bidding. K 
I didn't — well, no matter. - 

We tarried at Kew-Orleans two days. During that 
time I pointed out the locality of Freeman's slave 
pen, and the room in which Ford purchased me. "We 
happened to meet Theophilus in the street, but I did 
not think it worth while to renew acquaintance with 
him. From respectable citizens we ascertained he 
had become a low, miserable rowdy — a broken-down, 
disreputable man. 


We also visited tlie recorder, Mr. Genois, to whom 
Senator Soule's letter was directed, and found liim a 
man well deserving the wide and honorable repiita 
tion that he bears. He very generously furnished us 
with a sort of legal pass, over his signature and seal 
of office, and as it contains the recorder's description 
of mj personal appearance, it may not be amiss te in 
sert it here. The following is a copy : 

" State of Louisiana — City of New- Orleans : 
Recorder's Office, Second District. 
" To all to whom these presents shall come : — 

" This is to certify that Henry B. Northup, Esquire, of the 
county of Washington, New-York, has produced before me due 
evidence of the freedom of Solomon, a mulatto man, aged 
about forty-two years, five feet, seven inches and six lines, woolly 
hair, and chestnut eyes, who is a native born of the State of 
New- York. That the said Northup, being about bringing the 
said Solomon to his native place, through the southern routes, 
the civil authorities are requested to let the aforesaid color- 
ed man Solomon pass unmolested, he demeanuig well and 

" Given under my hand and the seal of the city of New-Or 
leans this 7th January, 1853. 

[l. s.] "TH. genois. Recorder." 

On the 8th we came to Lake Pontchartrain, by rail- 
road, and, in due time, following the usual route, 
reached Charleston. After going on board the steam- 
boat, and paying our passage at this city, Mr. North- 
up was called upon by a custom-house officer to ex- 
plain why he had not registered his tserviuit. He 


replied that lie liad no servant — that, as the agent of 
New- York, he was accompanying a free citizen of that 
State from slavery to freedom, and did not desire nor 
intend to make any registry whatever. I conceived 
from his conversation and manner, though I may per- 
haps be entirely mistaken, that no great pains would 
be taken to avoid whatever difficulty the Charleston 
officials might deem proper to create. At length, 
however, we were permitted to proceed, and, passing 
through Richmond, where I caught a glimpse of 
Goodin's pen, arrived in Washington January lYth, 

We ascertained that both Burch and Radburn were 
still residing in that city. Immediately a complaint 
was entered with a police magistrate of Washington, 
against James H. Burch, for kidnapping and selling 
me into slavery. He was arrested upon a warrant 
issued by Justice Goddard, and returned before Jus- 
tice Mansel, and held to bail in the sum of three thou- 
sand dollars. When first arrested, Burch was much 
excited, exhibiting the utmost fear and alarm, and be- 
fore reaching the justice's office on Louisiana Ave- 
nue, and before knowing the precise nature of the 
complaint, begged the police to permit him to consult 
Benjamin O. Shekels, a slave trader of seventeen 
years' standing, and his former partner. The latter 
became his bail. 

At ten o'clock, the 18th of January, both parties 
appeared before the magistrate. Senator Chase, of 
Ohio, Hon. OrviUe Clark, of Sandy Hill, and Mr 


JSTorthvp acted as counsel for tlie prosecution, and Jo- 
seph JL Bradley for tlie defence. 

Gen. Orville Clark was called and sworn as a wit- 
ness, and testified tliat he had known me from child- 
hood, and that I was a free man, as was my father be- 
fore me. Mr. JSTorthup then testified to tlie same, and 
proved the facts connected with his mission to Avoy- 

Ebenezer Eadburn was then sworn for tbe prosecu- 
tion, and testified he was forty-eight years old ; that 
he was a resident of Washington, and had known 
Burch fourteen years ; that in 1841 he was keeper of 
"Williams' slave pen ; that he remembered the fact of 
ray confinement in the pen that year. At this point 
it was admitted by the defendant's counsel, that I had 
been placed in the pen by Burch in the spring of 
1841, and hereupon the prosecution rested. 

Benjamin O. Shekels was then oflfered as a witness 
by the prisoner. Benjamin is a large, coai*se-featured 
man, and the reader may perhaps get a somewhat 
correct conception of him by reading the exact lan- 
guage he used in answer to the first question of de- 
fendant's lawyer. He was asked the place of his na- 
tivity, and his reply, uttered in a sort of rowdyish 
way, was in these very words — 

"I was born in Ontario county, ISTew-York, and 
weighed fourteen pounds .'" 

Benjamin was a prodigious baby ! He further tes- 
tifiod that he kept the Steamboat Hotel in Washing- 
ton in 1841, and saw me there in the spring of that 


year. He was proceeding to state what he had heard 
two men saj, when Senator Chase raised a legal ob- 
jection, to wit, that the sayings of third persons, be- 
ing hearsay, was improper evidence. Tlie objection 
was overruled by the Justice, and Shekels continued, 
stating that two men came to his hotel and represent- 
ed they had a colored man for sale ; that they had an 
interview with Burch ; that they stated they came 
from Georgia, but he did not remember the county ; 
that they gave a full history of the boy, saying he was 
a bricklayer, and played on the violin ; that Burch 
remarked he would purchase if they could agree ; that 
they went out and brought the boy in, and that I was 
the same person. He further testified, with as 
much unconcern as if it was the truth, that I rep- 
presented I was bom and bred in Georgia; that 
one of the young men with me was my master ; that 
I exhibited a great deal of regret at parting with him, 
and he believed " got into tears !" — nevertheless, that 
I insisted my master had a right to sell me ; that he 
ought to sell me ; and the remarkable reason I gave 
was, according to Shekels, because he, my master, 
" had been gambling and on a spree !" 

He continued, in these words, copied from the min- 
utes taken on the examination : " Burch interrogated 
the boy in the usual manner, told him if he purchas- 
ed him he should send him south. The boy said he 
had no objection, that in fact he would like to go 
south. Burch paid $650 for him, to my knowledge. 
I don't know what name was given him, but think it 


was not Solomon. Did not know the name of either 
of the two men. Tlie j were in m j tavern two or three 
hours, dm-ing which time the hoy played on the vio- 
lin. The hill of sale was signed in my har-room. It 
was a printed UanJc^ filled up Itj Burch. Before 1838 
Burch was my partner. Our business was buying 
and selling slaves. After that time he was a partner 
of Theophilus Freeman, of Kew-Orleans. Burch 
bought here — Freeman sold there !" 

Shekels, before testifying, had heard my relation of 
the circumstances connected with the visit to Wash- 
ington with Brown and Hamilton, and therefore, it 
was, undoubtedly, he spoke of " two men," and of my 
playing on the violin. Such was his fabrication, ut- 
terly untrue, and yet there was found in Washington 
a man who endeavored to corroborate him. 

Benjamin A. Thorn testified he was at Shekels' in 
1841, and saw a colored boy playing on a fiddie. 
" Shekels said he was for sale. Heard his master tell 
him he should sell him. The boy acknowledged to me 
he was a slave. I was not present when the money 
was paid. Will not swear positively this is the boy. 
The master came near shedding tears : I think the loy 
did ! I have been engaged in the business of taking 
slaves south, off and on, for twenty years. When I 
can't do that I do something else." 

I was then offered as a witness, but, objection be- 
inff made, the court decided my evidence inadmissible. 
It was rejected solely on the ground that I was a col- 


ored man — tlie fact of my being a free citizen of 
New- York not being disputed. 

Shekels having testified there was a bill of sale ex 
ecuted, Biirch was called upon by the prosecution to 
produce it, inasmuch as such a paper would corrobo- 
rate the testimony of Thorn and Shekels. Tlie pris- 
oner's counsel saw the necessity of exhibiting it, or 
giving some reasonable explanation for its non-pro- 
duction. To effect the latter, Burch himself was offer- 
as a witness in his own behalf. It was contended by 
counsel for the people, that such testimony should not 
be allowed — that it was in contravention of every 
rule of evidence, and if permitted would defeat the 
ends of justice. His testimony, however, was receiv- 
ed by the court ! He made oath that such a bill of 
sale had been drawn up and signed, hut he had lost it, 
and did not Icnow what had hecome of it ! Thereup- 
on the magistrate was requested to dispatch a police 
officer to Burch's residence, with directions to bring 
hiis books, containing his bills of sales for the year 
ISil. Tlie request was granted, and before any meas- 
ure could be taken to prevent it, the officer had ob- 
tained possession of the books, and brought them into 
court. Tlie sales for the year 18M were found, and 
carefully examined, but no sale of myself, by any 
name, was discovered ! 

Upon this testimony the court held the fact to be 
established, that Burch came innocently and honestly 
by me, and accordingly he was discharged. 


An attempt was then made by Burcli and his sat- 
ellites, to fasten upon me the charge that I had con- 
spired with the two wliite men to defraud him— with 
what success, appears in an extract taken from an ar- 
ticle in the ISTew-York Times, published a day or two 
subsequent to the trial : " Tlie counsel for the defend- 
ant had drawn up, before the defendant was dis- 
charged, an affidavit, signed by Burch, and had a 
warrant out against the colored man for a conspiracy 
with the two white men before referred to, to defraud 
Burch out of six hundred and twenty-five dollars. 
The warrant was served, and the colored man arrest- 
ed and brought before officer Goddard. Burch and 
his witnesses appeared in court, and H. B. K'orthup 
appeared as counsel for the colored man, stating he 
was ready to proceed as counsel on the part of the de- 
fendant, and asking no delay whatever. Burch, after 
consulting privately a short time with Shekels, stated 
to the magistrate that he wished him to dismiss the 
complaint, as he would not proceed farther with it. 
Defendant's counsel stated to the magistrate that if 
the complaint was withdrawn, it must be without the 
request or consent of the defendant. Burch then 
asked the magistrate to let him have the complaint 
and the warrant, and he took them. Tlie counsel for 
the defendant objected to his receiving them, and in- 
sisted they should remain as part of the records of the 
court, and that the court should endorse the proceed- 
ings which had been had under the process. Burch 
delivered them up, and the court rendered a judg- 


jnent of discontinuance by the request of the prosecu 
tor, and filed it in his office. " 

There may be those who will affect to believe the 
statement of the slave-trader — those, in whose minds 
his allegations will weigh heavier than mine. I am a 
poor colored man — one of a down-trodden and de- 
graded race, whose humble voice may not be heeded 
by the oppressor — but 'knowing the truth, and with a 
full sense of my accountability, I do solemnly declare 
before men, and before God, that any charge or as- 
sertion, that I conspired directly or indirectly with 
any person or persons to sell myself ; that any other 
account of my visit to Washington, my capture and 
imprisonment in Williams' slave pen, than is contain- 
ed in these pages, is utterly and absolutely false. I 
never played on the violin in Washington. I never 
was in the Steamboat Hotel, and never saw Thorn or 
Shekels, to my knowledge, in my iife, until last Jan- 
uary. Tlie story of the trio of slave-traders is a fab 
rication as absurd as it is base and unfounded. Were 
it true, I should not have turned aside on my way 
back to liberty for the purpose of prosecuting Burch. 
I should have avoided rather than sought him. I 
should have known that sux3h a step would have re- 
sulted in rendering me infamous. Under the circum 
stances — longing as I did to behold my family, and 
elated with the prospect of returning home — it is an 
outrage upon probability to suppose I would have run 
the hazard, not only of exposure, but of a criminal 


prosecution and conviction, by voluntarily placing 
myself in the position I did, if the statements of 
Burch and his confederates contain a particle of truth. 
I took pains to seek him out, to confront him in a 
court of law, charging him with the crime of kidnap- 
ping ; and the only motive that impelled me to this 
step, was a burning sense of the wrong he had inflict- 
ed upon me, and a desire to bring him to justice. 
He was acquitted, in the manner, and by such means 
as have been described. A human tribunal has per- 
mitted him to escape ; but there is another and a 
higher tribunal, where false testimon}^ will not pre- 
vail, and where I am willing, so far at least as these 
statements are concerned, to be judged at last. 

We left Washington on the 20th of January, and 
proceeding by the way of Philadelphia, New- York, 
and Albany, reached Sandy Hill in the night of the 
21st. My heart overflowed with happiness as I look- 
ed around upon old familiar scenes, and found myself 
in the midst of friends of other days. The following 
morning I started, in company with several acquaint- 
ances, for Glens Falls, the residence of Anne and our 

As I entered their comfortable cottage, Margaret 
was the first that met me. She did not recognize me. 
When I left her, she was but seven years old, a little 
prattling girl, playing with her toys. Now she was 
grown to womanhood — was married, with a bright- 
eyed boy standing by her side. Not forgetful of his 


enslaved, unfortunate grand-father, she had named the 
child Solomon Northup Staunton. When told who 
I was, she was overcome with emotion, and unable to 
speak. Presently Elizabeth entered the room, and 
Anne came running from the hotel, having been in- 
formed of my arrival, llioy embraced me, and with 
tears flowing down their cheeks, hung upon my neck. 
But I draw a veil over a scene which can better be 
imagined than described. 

When the violence of our emotions had subsided to 
a sacred joy — when the household gathered round 
the fire, that sent out its warm and crackling comfort 
through the room, we conversed of the thousand 
events that had occurred — the hopes and fears, the 
joys and sorrows, the trials and troubles we had each 
experienced during the long separation. Alonzo was 
absent in the western part of the State. The boy 
had written to his mother a short time previous, of 
the prospect of his obtaining sufficient money to pur- 
chase my freedom. From his earliest years, that had 
been the chief object of his thoughts and his ambi- 
tion. Tliey knew I was in bondage. The letter wiit- 
ten on board the brig, and Clem Ray himself, had 
given them that information. But where I was, until 
the arrival of Bass' letter, was a matter of conjecture. 
Elizabeth and Margaret once returned from school — 
so Anne informed me — weeping bitterly. On inquir- 
ing the cause - of the children's sorrow, it was found 
that, wliile studying geography, their attention had 
been attracted to the picture of slaves working in the 



cotton-field, and an overseer following them with his 
whip. It reminded them of the sufferings their fa- 
ther might be, and, as it happened, actually was^ en- 
during in the South. Numerous incidents, such as 
these, were related — incidents showing they still held 
me in constant remembrance, but not, perhaps, of 
sufficient interest to the reader, to be recounted. 

My narrative is at an end. I have no comments to 
make upon the subject of Slavery. Those who read 
this book may form their own opinions of the " pe- 
culiar institution." What it may be in other States, 
I do not profess to know ; what it is in the region of 
Red Kiver, is truly and faithfully delineated in these 
pages. Tills is no fiction, no exaggeration. If I have 
failed in anything, it has been in presenting to the 
reader too prominently the bright side of the picture. 
I doubt not hundreds have been as unfortunate as 
myself; that hundreds of free citizens have been kid- 
napped and sold into slavery, and are at tliis mo- 
ment wearing out their lives on j^lantations in 
Texas and Louisiana. But I forbear. Chastened 
and subdued in spirit by the sufferings I have borne, 
and thankful to that good Being through whose mer- 
cy I have been restored to happiness and liberty, 
I hope henceforward to lead an upright though lowly 
life, and rest at last in the church yard where my fa- 
ther sleeps. 

N» 21 








D. C, 

?--E— *t 


' Harper's rreek and roarin' ribber, 
ITiar, my dear, we'll live forebber ; 
Den we'll iTo to de Ligin nation, 
All I want in dis creation, 
Is pretfy little wife and big plantation. 

Up dat oak and down dat ribber, 
Two over-eeis and one little nigger." 


A.— Page 291. 

CHAP. 375. 

An act more effectually to protect the free citizens of this State 
from being kidnapped^ or reduced to Slavery. 

[Passed May 14, 1840.] 

The People of the State of New-York, represented in Sen 
ate and Assembly, do enaot as follows : 

§1. Whenever the Governor of this State shall receive 
information satisfactory to Mm that any free citizen or any 
inhabitant of this State has been kidnapped or transported 
away out of this State, into any other State or Territory of the 
United States, for the purpose of being there held m slavery ; or 
that sudk free citizen or inhabitant is wrongfully seized, im- 
prisoned or held in slavery in any of the States or Territories 
of the United States, on the allegation or pretence that such 
a person is a slave, or by color of any usage or rule of law 
prevailing in such State or Territory, is deemed or token to bo 
a slave, or not entitled of right to the personal liberty belong 
ing to a citizen; it shall be the duty of the said Governor to 


take such measures as he shall deem necessary to procure such 
person to be restored to his liberty and returned to this State. 
The Governor is hereby authorized to appoint and employ such 
agent or agents as he shall deem necessary to effect the restora 
tion and return of such person ; and shall furnish the said agent 
witli such credentials and instructions as will be likely to ao 
complish the object of his appointment. The Governor may 
deterrame the compensation to be allowed to such agent for his 
services besides his necessary expenses. 

§ 2. Such agent shall proceed to collect the proper proof to 
establish the right of such person to his freedom, and shall per- 
form such journeys, take such measures, institute and procure 
to be prosecuted such legal proceedings, under the direction of 
the Governor, as shall be necessary to procm^e such person to 
be restored to his liberty and returned to this State. 

§ 3. The accounts for all services and expenses mcurred in 
carrying this act into effect shall be audited by the Compti^oller, 
and paid by the Treasurer on his wan*ant, out of any moneys 
in the treasury of this State not otherwise appropriated. The 
Treasurer may advance, on the warrant of the Comptroller, to 
such agent, such sum or sums as the Governor shall certify to 
be reasonable advances to enable him to accomplish the pur- 
Doses of his appointment, for which advance such agent shall 
account, on the final audit of his warrant. 

§ 4. This act shall take effect inomediately. 


B.— Page 292. 

To His Excellency^ the Governor of the State of New-York : 

The memorial of Anne Northup, of the village of Glena 
Falls, in the county of Warren, State aforesaid, respectfully 
sets forth — 

That your memorialist, whose maiden name was Anne Hamp- 
ton, was forty-four years old on the 14th day of March last, and 
was married to Solomon- Northup, then of Fort Edward, in 
the county of Washington and State aforesaid, on the 25th day 
of December, A. D. 1828, by Timothy Eddy, then a Justice 
of the Peace. That the said Solomon, after such marriage, 
lived and kept house with your memorialist m said to\Mi until 
1830, when he removed with his said family to the town of 
Kingsbury in said county, and remained there about three 
years, and then removed to Saratoga Springs in the State 
aforesaid, and continued to reside in said Saratoga Springs and 
the adjoining town until about the year 1841, as near as the 
time can be recollected, when the said Solomon started to go to 
the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, smce 
which time your memorialist has never seen her said husband. 

And your memorialist ftirther states, that in the year 1841 
she received information by a letter directed to Henry B. 
Northup, Esq., of Sandy Hill, Washington county, New-York, 
and post-marked at New Orleans, that said Solomon had been 
kidnapped in Washington, put on board of a vessel, and was 
then in such vessel m New-Orleans, but could not tell how ho 
came in that situation, nor what his lestination was. 

That your memorialist ever since tlie last mentioned period 
has been wholly unable to obtain any information of whore the 
said Solomon wa?;, imtil the month of Scptcnil)cr last, when 


another letter was received from the said Solomon, post-marked 
at Marksville, in the parish of Avoyelles, in the State of Lou- 
isiana, stating that he was held there as a slave, which state- 
ment your memorialist believes to be true. 

That the said Solomon is about forty-five years of age, and 
never resided out of the State of New- York, in which State he 
was bom, until the time he went to Washington city, as before 
stated. That the said Solomon Northup is a free citizen of the 
State of New-York, and is now wrongfully held in slavery, in 
or near Marksville, in the parish of Avoyelles, in the State of 
Louisiana, one of the United States of America, on the allega- 
tion or pretence that the said Solomon is a slave. 

And your memorialist further states that Mintus Northup was 
the reputed father of said Solomon, and was a negro, and died 
at Fort Edward, on the 22d day of November, 1829 ; that the 
mother of said Solomon was a mulatto, or three quarters w^hite, 
and died in the county of Oswego, New- York, some five or sLx 
years ago, as your memorialist was uiformed and believes, and 
never was a slave. 

That your memorialist and her family are poor and wholly* 
unable to pay or sustain any poition of the expenses of restor- 
ing the said Solomon to his freedom. 

Your excellency is entreated to employ such agent or agents 
as shall be deemed neces.sary to effect the restoration and return 
of said Solomon Northup, in pursuance of an act of the Legis- 
lature of the State of New-York, passed May 14th, 1840, 
entitled " An act more effectually to protect the free citizens of 
this State fi'om being kidnappd or reduced to slavery," And 
your memorialist will ever pray. 

(Signed,) ANNE NORTHUP. 

Dated November 19, 1852. 


State of New-York : 

Washington county, ss. 
Anne Northup, of the village of Glens Falls, in the county 
of Warren, in said State, being duly swoni, doth depose and 
say that she signed the above memorial, and that the state- 
ments therein contained are true. 

(Signed,) ANNE NORTHUP. 

Subscribed and sworn before me tliis 
19th November, 1852. 

Charles Hughes, Justice Peace. 

We recommend that the Governor appoint Henry B. Northup, 
of the village of Sandy Hill, Washington county, New-York, 
as one of the agents to procure the restoration and return 
of Solomon Northup, named in the foregoing memorial of 
Anne Northup. 

Dated at Sandy Hill, Washmgton Co., N. Y., 
November 20, 1852. (Signed,) 






State of New-York : 

Washington County, ss : 
Josiah Hand, of the village of Sandy Hill, in said county, be- 
ing duly sworn, says, he is fifty-seven years old, and was bom 
m said village, and has always resided there ; that he has 
known Mmtus Northup and his son Solomon, named in tlie an- 
nexed memorial of Anne Northup, since previous to the year 
] 816 ; that Mmtus Northup then, and until the time of his death, 
cultivated a farm in the towns of Kingsbury and Fort Edward, 
from the time deponent first knew him until he died ; that said 
Mmtus and his wife, the mother of said Solomon Northup, 


were reported to be free citizens of New- York, and deponent 
believes they were so fi-ee ; that said Solomon Northup was 
bom in said county of Washuigton, as deponent believes, and 
was married Dec. 25th, 1828, in Fort Edward aforesaid, and 
his said wife and three children — two daughters and one son — 
are now living in Glens Falls, Warren county, New-York, and 
that the said Solomon Northup always resided in said county 
of Washington, and its immediate vicinity, until about 1841, 
since which time deponent has not seen him, but deponent 
has been credibly informed, and as he verily believes truly, 
the said Solomon is now wrongfully held as a slave in the 
State of Louisiana. And deponent further says that Anne 
Northup, named in the said memorial, is entitled to credit, and 
deponent believes the statements contained in her said memo- 
rial are true. (Signed,) JOSIAH HAND. 

Subscribed and sworn before me this 
19th day of November, 1852, 

Charles Hughes, Justice Peace. 
State of New-York: 

Washington county, ss : 

Timothy Eddy, of Fort Edward, in said county, being duly 
sworn, says he is now over — years old, and has been a resident 
of said to\^ai more than — years last past, and that he was 
well acquamted w^th Solomon Northup, named m the annexed 
memorial of Anne Northup, and with his father, Mintus North- 
up, who was a negro, — the wife of said Mintus was a mulatto 
woman ; that said Mmtus Northup and his said wife and family, 
two sons, Joseph and Solomon, resided in said towTi of Fort 
Edward for several years before the year 1828, and said Min- 
tus died in said town A. D. 1829, as deponent believes. And 
deponent further says that he was a Justice of the Peace in 
said town in the year 1828, and as such Justice of the Peace, 
he, on the 25th day of Dec'r, 1828, jomed the said Solomon 


Northup in marriage with Anne Hampton, who is the same 
person who has subscribed the annexed memorial. And depo- 
nent expressly says, that said Solomon was a free citizen of 
the State of New-York, and always lived in said SUite, until 
about the year A. D. 1840, since which time deponent has not 
seen him, but has recently been informed, and as deponent be- 
lieves truly, that said Solomon Northup is wrongfully held m 
slavery m or near Marksville, m the parish of Avoyelles, in the 
State of Louisiana. And deponent further says, that said Min- 
tus Northup was nearly sixty years old at the time of his death, 
and was, for more than thirty years next prior to his death, a 
free citizen of the State of New-York. 

And this deponent further says, that Aime Northup, the wife 
of said Solomon Northup, is of good character and reputation, 
and her statements, as contained m the memorial hereto annexed, 

are entitled to full credit. ^.-..^rr^TTTr T-^^T^v 

(Signed,) TMOTIIY EDDY. 

Subscribed and sworn before me this 
19th day of November, 1852, 

Tim'y Stoughton, Justice. 

State of New-York: 

Washington County, ss : 

Henry B. Northup, of the village of Sandy Hill, m said 
county, being duly sworn, says, that he is forty-seven years old, 
and has always lived in said county; that he knew Mintus 
Northup, named m the annexed memorial, from deponent's 
earliest recollection until the time of his death, which occurred 
at Fort Edward, in said county, in 1829; that deponent knew 
the children of said Mintus, viz, Solomon and Joseph; tliat 
they were both born m the county of Washington afore^ud, as 
deponent believes; that deponent was well acquainted with 
said Solomon, who is the same person named in the annexed 
memorial of Aime Northup, from his chUdhood; and that sa,d 


Solomon always resided iii said county of Washington and the 
adjoining counties until about the year 1841 ; that said Solo- 
mon could read and ^mte ; that said Solomon and his mother 
and father were free citizens of the State of New- York ; that 
sometime about the year 1841 this deponent received a letter 
from said Solomon, post-marked Ne\v-Orleans, stating that 
while on business at Washington city, he had been kidnapped, 
and his free papers taken from him, and he was then on board 
a vessel, in irons, and was claimed as a slave, and that he did 
not know his destination, which the deponent believes to be 
true, and he urged this deponent to assist in procuring his restora- 
tion to freedom ; that deponent has lost or mislaid said letter, 
and cannot find it ; that deponent has since endeavored to find 
where said Solomon was, but could get no farther trace of liim 
until Sept. last, when this deponent ascertained by a letter pur- 
porting to have been written by the dii*ection of said Solomon, 
that said Solomon was held and claimed as a slave in or near 
Marksville, m the parish of Avoyelles, Louisiana, and that this 
deponent verily believes that such information is true, and that 
said Solomon is now ^^Tongfully held in slavery at Marks^^ille 
aforesaid. (Signed,) HENRY B. NORTHUP. 

Subscribed and sworn to before me 
this 20th day of November, 1852, 

Charles Hughes, J. P. 

State of New-York: 

Washington County, ss 

Nicholas C. Northup, of the village of Sandy Hill, in said 
county, being duly swoni, doth depose and say, that he is now 
fifty-eight years of age, and has known Solomon Northup, men 
tioned in the annexed memorial of Ann Northup, ever since he 
was born. And this deponent saith that said Solomon is now 
about forty-five years old, and was bom m the county of Wasii- 

An'KNDTX, 331 

ington aforesaid, or in the county of Essex, in said State, and 
always resided in the State of New-Yorlv until about the year 
1841, smee which time deponent has not seen him or known 
where he w^as, until a few weejcs since, deponent was informed, 
and believes truly, that said Solomon was held in slavery in 
the State of Louisiana. Deponent further says, that said Sol- 
omon was married in the town of Fort Edward, in said county, 
about twenty-four years ago, and that his wnfe and two daugh 
ters and one son now reside m the village of Glens Ealls, coun 
ty of Warren, in said State of New-York. And this deponent 
swears positively that said Solomon Northup is a citizen of said 
State of New- York, and was born free, and fi'om his earliest 
mfancy lived and resided m the counties of Washington, Essex, 
Warren and Saratoga, in the State of New-York, and that his 
said wife and children have never resided out of said counties 
since the time said Solomon w^as married ; that deponent knew 
the father of said Solomon Northup ; that said father was a 
negro, named Mintus Northup, and died m the town of Fort 
Edw'ard, in the county of Washington, State of New-York, on 
the 22d day of November, A. D. 1829, and was buried m the 
grave-yard in Sandy Hill aforesaid ; that for more than thirty- 
years before his death he lived in the counties of Essex, Wash- 
ington and Rensselaer and State of New- York, and letl: a wife 
and two sons, Joseph and the said Solomon, him surviving ; 
that the mother of said Solomon was a mulatto woman, and is 
now dead, and died, as deponent believes, m Oswego county, 
New-York, withm five or six years past. And this deponent 
fiu-ther states, that the mother of the said Solomon Nortliup 
was not a slave at the time of the birth of said Solomon North- 
up, and has not been a slave at any time within the last fifly 
years. (Signed,) N. C. NOKTllUP. 

Subscribed and sworn before me this 19th day 

of November, 1852. Chakles Hughes, Justice Peace. 


State of Netv-York: 
Washington County, ss. 

Orxille Clark, of the \allage of Sandy Hill, in the county of 
Washington, State of New- York, being duly sworn, doth de- 
pose and say — that he, thisxleponent, is over fifty years of age ; 
that in the years 1810 and 1811, or most of the time of those 
years, this deponent resided at Sandy Hill, aforesaid, and at 
Glens Falls ; that this deponent then knew Mintus Northup, a 
black or colored man; he was then a free man, as this depo 
nent believes and always understood; that the wife of said 
]\Iintus Northup, and mother of Solomon, was a free woman ; 
that from the year 1818 until the time of the death of said 
Mintus Northup, about the year 1829, this deponent was very 
well acquainted with the said j\Iintus Northup ; that he was a 
respectable man in the community m which he resided, and 
was a free man, so taken and esteemed by all his acquaintan- 
ces ; that this deponent has also been and was acquainted \iith. 
his son Solomon Northup, from the said year 1818 until he 
left this part of the country, about the year 1840 or 1841 ; 
that he married Anne Hampton, daughter of William Hamp- 
ton, a near neighbor of this deponent ; that the said Amie, ^^ife 
of said Solomon, is now li\dng and resides in this vicinity ; that 
the said Mintus Northup and William Hampton were both re- 
puted and esteemed in this community as respectable men. 
And this deponent saith that the said J^Iintus Northup and his 
family, and the said William Hampton and his family, from 
the earliest recollection and acquaintance of this deponent with 
him (as far back as 1810,) were always reputed, esteemed, and 
taken to be, and this deponent believes, truly so, free citizens of 
the State of New- York. This deponent knows the said Wil- 
liam Hampton, under the laws of this State, was entitled to 
vote at our elections, and he believes the said Mintus Northup 
also was entitled as a free citizen with the property qualifica 


tion. And this deponent further saith, that the said Solomon 
Northup, son of said Mintus, and husband of said Anne Hamp- 
ton, when he left this State, was at the time thereof a free cit?.- 
een of the State of New-York. And this deponent further 
saith, that said Anne Hampton, wife of Solomon Northup, is a 
respectable woman, of good character, and I would believe her 
statements, and do believe the facts set forth m her memorial 
to his excellency, the Governor, in relation to her said husband, 
are true. (Signed,) ORVILLE CLARK. 

Sworn before me, November 
19th, 1852. 

U. G. Paris, Justice of the Peace. 

State of New-York: 

Washington County, ss. 

Benjamin Fenis, of the village of Sandy Hill, in said county, 
bemg duly sworn, doth depose and say — that he is now fifty- 
seven years old, and has resided m said village forty-five years ; 
that he was well acquainted with Mintus Northup, named in 
the annexed memorial of Anne Northup, from the year 1816 
to the time of his death, which occurred at Fort Edward, in the 
fall of 1829 ; that he knew the children of the said Mmtus, 
namely, Joseph Northup and Solomon Northup, and that the 
said Solomon is the same person named m said memorial ; 
that said Mintus resided in the said county of Washington to 
the time of his death, and was, during aU that time, a free citi- 
zen of the said State of New-York, ^ deponent verQy beheves ; 
that said memorialist, Aime Northup, is a woman of good char- 
acter, and the statement contained m her memorial is entitled 

to credit. _^^ 


Sworn before me, November 
19th, 1852. 

U. G. Paris, Justice of the Peace. 


State of New- York: 
Executive Chamber, Albany, Nov. 30, 1852. 
I here])y certify that the foregoing is a correct copy of cer 
tain proofs filed in the Executive Department, upon which . 
have appomted Henry B. Northup an Agent of this State, tc 
take proper proceediiigs in behalf of Solomon Northup, there 
in mentioned. 


By the Governor. 

J. F. R., Private Secretary. 

State of New-York : 
Executive Department. 
"Washington Hunt, Governor of the State of New-Yorh^ 

to whom it may concern^ greeting : 

Whereas, I have received information on oath, which is sat- 
isfactary to me, that Solomon Northup, who is a free citizen of 
tliis State, is wrongfully held in slavery, in the State of Lou- 
isiana : 

And whereas, it is made my duty, by the laws of this State, 
to take such measures as I shall deem necessary to procure any 
citizen so \ATongfully held in slavery, to be restored to his Kb- 
erty and returned to this State : 

Be it known, that in pursuance of chapter 375 of the laws of 
this State, ^-assed in 1840, 1 have constituted, appointed and em 
ployer' .jLcnry B. Northup, Esquire, of the county of Washing 
ton. ji this State, an Agent, ^vith full power to effect the resto 
ration of said Solomon Northup, and the said Agent is hereby 
authorized and empowered to institute such proper and legal 
proceedings, to procure such evidence, retain such counsel, and 
finally to take such measures as will be most likely to accom 
plish the object of his said appomtment. 

He is also instructed to proceed to the State of Louisiana 


with all convenient dispatch, to execute the agcnc}- hereby 

In witness whereof, I have heremito subscribed my name, 
[l.s.] and affixed the privy seal of the State, at Albany, this 
23d day of November, in the year of our Lord 185'2. 

James F.. Ruggles, Private Secretary. 

C— Page 309. 

State of Louisiana: 
Parish of Avoyelles. 
Before me, Aristide Barbm, Recorder of the parish of Avoy 
elles, personally came and appeareji Henry B. Northup, of the 
county of Washington, State of New-York, who hath declarec) 
that by virtue of a commission to nim as agent of the State of 
New-York, given and granted by his excellency, WashmgtoD 
Hunt, Governor of the said State of New-York, bearing date 
the 23d day of November, 1852, authorizing and empowering 
him, the said Northup, to pursue and recover from slavery a 
free man of color, called Solomon Northup, who is a free citi- 
zen of the State of New-York, and who was kidnapped and sold 
into slavery, in the State of Louisiana, and now in the possession 
of Edwin Epps, of the State of Louisiana, of the Parish of Avoy- 
elles ; he, the said agent, hereto signing, acknowledges that the 
said Edwin has this day given and surrendered to him as such 
agent, the said Solomon Northup, free man of color, as afore- 
said, in order that he be restored to his freedom, and carried 
baxik to the said State of New-York, pursuant to said commis- 
sion, the said Edwin Epps being satisfied from the pn^ofs pro- 
duced by said agent, that the said Solomon Northup is entitled 
to his freedom. The parties consenting that a certified c .py « .T 
^id power of attorney be annexed to this act. 


Done and signed at Marksville, parish of Avoyelles, tWs 
fourth day of January, one thousand eight hundred and fifty- 
three, in the presence of the undersigned, legal and competent 
"witnesses, who have also hereto signed. 

(Signed,) HENRY B. NORTHUP. 

ADE.BARBIN, Recorder. 
Witnesses : 

H. Taylor, 
John P. Waddill. 

State of Louisiana : 
Parish of Avoyelles. 
I do hereby certify the foregoing to be a true and correct 
copy of the origmal on file and of record in my office. 

Given under my hand and seal of office as Recorder 
[l. s.] in and for the parish of Avoyelles, this 4th day of 
January, A. D. 1853. 

(Signed,) ADE. BARBIN, Recorder 



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